first_imgWhen the Wisconsin football team practiced Saturday for thefirst time this spring, no one was likely more excited to hit the turf thanP.J. Hill.For the Badger tailback, it was the first time he’s beenable to take part in the team’s spring drills. Last year, following hisimpressive freshman campaign in which he ran for 1,569 yards and 15 touchdowns,he was forced to sit out after undergoing shoulder surgery in February.Injuries also plagued Hill during the 2007 season, as a legbruise caused him to miss all or parts of four games. In fact, durability hasbeen the gray cloud hanging over him during his two years as a starter.Now injury free, it’s understandable why Hill was all smilesafter practice when talking to the media.?I’m just ready to roll,? he declared. ?I’m feeling muchbetter, and I’m ready to get the season started.?With just one look at Hill during practice ? which the teamran without pads and just helmets ? those in attendance would notice a slimmerP.J. Listed at 227 (significantly down from his freshman weight of 242), heclaims to be feeling as good as he ever did ? if not better.?This is the first time my body’s been feeling really good,?Hill said.For his sake, Hill had better hope he stays healthy for theentire season, something he has yet to do in three years at Wisconsin. We’vealready seen two other tailbacks ? Zach Brown and Lance Smith ? fill in duringhis absence; if Hill were to go down again with another injury, it might betougher than before to reclaim the top spot in the pecking order. Aside fromBrown and Smith itching to get their reps, there’s now another back to throwinto the mix, as freshman John Clay ? who in high school was rated as one ofthe best backs in the country ? is now eligible after redshirting in 2007.None of this seems to concern the quiet but confident Hill,who felt his performance in the Outback Bowl (132 yards on 16 carries)reasserted him as the go-to guy.?It was very important to me because it showed I still hadmy swag,? Hill said of his showing in Tampa. ?I was out there feeling good. ? Ijust played like the same old P.J.?That same old P.J. is hopefully the same one fans grewaccustomed to seeing in 2006, not the one who spent a significant part of the2007 season on the bench.I’ve got to give credit to Hill for handling the situationhow he has. It would be easy for a player in his situation to come into thespring practices, assuming he’s the top dog in the backfield. After all, whyshouldn’t he be? He’s carried the ball for over 1,000 yards in each of hisfirst two seasons and has 31 total touchdowns.But when asked if he expects the starting role, Hillacknowledged the work he has to do to stay No. 1.?You can’t just think you’ve got the spot,? he said. ?Whenthere’s competition, that shows you’re strong at what you want to do at thatposition. It kind of just makes you work harder.?The crowded backfield could have the potential to causetension among the team’s tailbacks, as each is vying for playing time. But Hillsaid this isn’t so with him and his teammates.?We all get along. We’re just like a bunch of brothers,?Hill said. ?We know at the same time we’re out there competing and on Saturday,someone’s going to be the only one left.?If Hill stays healthy, he’ll likely be the one left to fillthe starting role.But that’s a big if.?Tyler is a junior majoring in journalism. Share yourthoughts about Wisconsin’s running back situation with him at [email protected]last_img

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