“I can’t say enough about this kid,” wide-receiver coach Ricky Proehl raved about Stephen Hill on Bustin' Loose with Frank Garcia and Mark Yarboro. Yarbs (Yarboro) brought up Hill with the reservation most Panthers media does when addressing the enigmatic former 2nd round pick who many view as a hopeless bust.
Proehl thinks otherwise, stating “he did nothing but work his tail off….I can’t wait to get my hands on him this spring and in the offseason so as to showcase what he can do. This will be a big spring for him.”
Hill, who Carolina signed to the practice squad early in the season, has been a controversial and intriguing source of discussion for fans. It’s been a conversation where those who believe Hill could find a second life in Carolina, often find themselves laughed out of the room by more cynical fans. I was goaded pretty hard for suggesting Carolina activate and utilize Hill in the Seattle playoff game if Philly Brown’s shoulder injury sidelined him.
Today’s comments from Proehl were intriguing, however. They may also help my self-esteem slightly. Proehl, who’s been coronated as the “wideout whisper” by most, knows Hill better than any of us. He seems to think higher of the former Jet than even those of us less who have been less than cynical.
So, really just how much could Hill benefit from having Proehl lay hands on him? Could he become an integral part of the Panthers offense in 2015?
I asked our Jets insider, Frankie Vittorini from FlightFiveLive.com about Hill’s story and future potential when Carolina acquired him back in September. Fankie V’s take turned out to be somewhat prophetic.
He noted that New York hadn’t been the most ideal situation. Receiver coach Sanjay Lal had been widely criticized, there weren’t many offensive weapons, and Hill lost confidence and became “nervous” and “jittery.” When we asked him if Hill would see the field in 2014 for the Panthers, he laughed, cautioning that practice squad guys were so fluid and unpredictable. Oddly, Frankie said he had a gut feeling that “Hill would have a future potentially in Carolina.” Proehl’s praise suggests Frankie V’s “gut” may end up being right.
Frankie kept going back to the idea that Hill may just end up pairing well with Cam, stating the fit was “perfect.” The nervous guy, whose head often gets in way of his hands, may just have to react rather than play the victim paralyzed by overthinking. Cam can just fire “missiles,” leaving Hill little option to respond or lose his head. Hill’s college system at Georgia Tech, Frankie V, reminded uses a lot of elements, such as bootlegs and read options, that Cam does so well. This may create a comfort factor in settling some of the mental timidity that characterized his struggles in New York.
Proehl provided some helpful insight on what he values most in a receiver, and beyond the measurables, he cherishes work ethic. Proehl confidently noted he can help guys become better route runners, process the game faster, and get to their spots on time, but he needs a guy who is teachable. He also explained he can’t teach speed, but it wasn’t Hill’s speed or length Proehl glowed about, however. It was his willingness to learn and a humility that Proehl explained often escapes guys who have been demoted from an active roster to a practice squad.
Proehl made these comments from “on the road,” where he said he was scouring the country for a #2 receiver. There are guys in the locker-room, Hill included, he suggested that will be competing for that #2 spot, however. The competition is there, and it appears Hill wants in. Proehl has been impressed enough so far to give him a genuine opportunity.
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn