Kelton Hill has been moved to safety from quarterback, Georgia State coach Bill Curry said after Tuesday’s practice.
Curry said the decision was made to get the best possible athletes on the field. Hill said he will still play in wildcat formations and will also return kicks and punts, something he couldn’t when he was a quarterback. Ronnie Bell will back up starting quarterback Ben McLane.
After appearing as a backup in Thursday night’s 33-6 loss to South Carolina State, Hill said he approached offensive coordinator John Bond about the move on Sunday before talking to Curry.
“I was tired of the two-quarterback rotation,” Hill said. “I thought this has got to stop. It was just holding the team up.”
It turns out, Bond had also been thinking about the move for some of the same reasons as Hill. Bond said the team has performed at its best during its first season when it had one quarterback, Drew Little, taking most of the snaps. Last year, because of disciplinary issues, injuries and lack of effectiveness, the team used three quarterbacks, each with a different style, and the offense suffered, scoring five less points a game than in 2010.
It appeared the team was going to go through the same identity issues this year. McLane is more of drop-back passer like Little, while Hill is better at running option packages.
Playing both McLane and Hill on Thursday, the offense had one of the worst games in the program’s short history. Its 229 yards was the third-fewest in program history. Its six points the second-worst. The 27-point margin of defeat was the worst for Curry against an FCS team. Instead of running at least 76 plays, which was a preseason barometer of success for success, the offense ran 58. Its inefficiency forced the defense on the field for 78.
The differences needed in play-calling and strategy had become an unnecessary hurdle.
“We have such a different identity depending upon who the quarterback is,” Bond said. “It’s hard to get better. It’s hard to game plan. That’s a tough situation. We are going to make a decision and roll with it.”
Bond said he didn’t make the move earlier in August, which would have given Hill more time to work out with the defensive backs, because he wanted to give him every opportunity to win the job. The fact that Bell wasn’t declared eligible by the NCAA until last week didn’t factor into the decision, Curry said.
The move may help settle the offense in other ways. Without Hill running the option, Donald Russell may get more carries. He rushed for 120 yards but only carried the ball 12 times against South Carolina State. After the game, Curry said the coaches should have gotten the ball to Russell more.
Hill, now wearing No. 11 instead of No. 4, worked out with the second team safeties on Tuesday. Curry said Hill picked things up intuitively. Hill was an all-state performer as an athlete at Lithia Springs High School, where he played quarterback and safety. He said the fundamentals came back to him during practice. Hill planned to meet with defensive coordinator Anthony Midget later today to go over the playbook.
“It makes me happy because I’ll see the field a lot more,” Hill said. “It’s going to be a lot to get used to, but I’m up for the challenge.”
The move continues another chapter in the strange trip it’s been for Hill at Georgia State.
Hill was dynamic as a freshman, playing as a backup in every game and leading the team with 416 rushing yards. During the offseason, he was arrested and charged with burglary. The charges were dropped and Hill was re-instated to the team in August. He started as the third-string quarterback but took over as starter midway through the season, passing for 1,021 yards and rushing for 609. But he completed just 54 percent of his passes. He was the presumed starter heading into the spring, but McLane won the job because Bond and Curry said they liked his accuracy and game management. Hill appeared as a backup against South Carolina State, passing for 76 yards and rushing for nine.
Curry raved about how proud he is of Hill, saying the two have walked many paths together and that this move wouldn’t work if Hill didn’t have such a great attitude.
“It’s made me the man I am today,” Hill said. “[I've learned] How to handle adversity, just learn from it and know everything’s going to be all right.”
1. What does the depth chart look like? It appears that Georgia State’s quarterbacks have one career start between them. McLane has one, Bell has none and Nate Schuster has none. Curry wouldn’t rule out Hill returning to quarterback depending upon injuries.
2. Why now, with Tennessee this weekend? That’s a good question. I assumed that Hill would start against the Volunteers’ big and fast defensive line because he is the more mobile of the quarterbacks. It appears the move was made because Bond said it’s time to move forward. The offense couldn’t do that.
3. How is Hill? He seemed fine during our interview, focused on what’s next. He later joked that with the change in number he has to change his license plate and a small medallion on his necklace. He seems like he’s looking forward to the change.
4. Will Hill play at safety? I’m sure he wants to, but he said this is about trying to get ready for next year. The Panthers are deep in the secondary, but two of the starters are seniors.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu