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WR Austin Hill returns to Arizona Wildcats practice

Sometimes forgotten in the Arizona Wildcats’ struggles in the passing game this season is the absence of receiver Austin Hill.

Last season, as a sophomore, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Hill caught 81 passes for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns, earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors in the process.

However, he tore his ACL late in spring practice this season and has yet to take the field for Rich Rodriguez’s team. But, he’s getting closer.

“He’ll put on the cleats, put on the pads, and go through individual workouts,” the coach said during his weekly press conference Monday. “His doctor from back home cleared him to practice.”

Of course, practicing is much different from actually playing, and with three games left on the schedule — plus a potential bowl game — there may yet be a chance the Corona, CA native suits up this year for the Wildcats (6-3, 3-3).

“This week he’ll be doing some stuff with Coach (Tony) Dews so that’s good to see,” Rodriguez added. “He’s bigger and stronger than he’s ever been.

I think he’s also faster. He’s one of the best in the league as far as catching the ball and understanding coverages. Austin has worked really hard and he looks great.”

There’s no doubt the Wildcats could use a player of Hill’s caliber. Though there has been some improvement, Arizona still ranks 101st in the nation in passing yards and does not have one receiver on pace to reach the 600 yard mark.

But even though he’s been unable to play, Hill has still made an impact this season.

“Austin is always a vocal guy in the room especially with the young guys and especially with how much they are playing,” fellow receiver Terrance Miller said Monday. “He is very good at giving that past experience. He has been there before, and he has done some of the things the coaches ask of these guys to do. He has always been a help.”

The Wildcats are just hoping that help will soon extend to the field of play, too.