By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – When Brandon Hill arrived on Mississippi State’s campus last summer, it was the job of Matt Balis to make him fit into the mold the coaches had created for him.
Hill was a freshman from West Lowndes High School, where he played multiple positions, including tight end. He came to campus at around 208 pounds – hardly tight end size. But MSU’s coaches saw the unfinished product.
Once Balis, State’s strength and conditioning coach, got a hold of Hill, the physical development was rapid. Hill, who stands at 6-foot-2, is up to 235 pounds and looks every bit of a tight end in spring practices.
“I thought he came in pretty athletic for a guy just coming in, but he’s also put on some good lean body mass and some good muscle,” Balis said. “He’s responded well to what we’re doing with him; he’s a hard-working kid.”
Hill, who redshirted last season, is currently third on the depth chart, behind seniors Kendrick Cook and Marcus Green. In Dan Mullen’s spread offense, the tight end ideally is a receiver with a little more bulk, someone who can not only block but create mismatches against linebackers.
That’s what Green has been, when healthy – he missed most of last season with a knee injury. Like Hill, Green came to MSU as undersized but now checks in at 6-1, 240.
Balis thinks Hill resembles a younger Green, and the youngster looks up to his elder.
“Marcus has been almost like a mentor, but more or less a big brother,” Hill said. “Anything I need help with, I can always go to Marcus, and he’ll guide me with a positive attitude as well as the big brother role.”
Given Green’s health history – he missed most of 2008 with a hip injury – the development of Hill could be very important. Cook isn’t as much a receiving threat, so Mullen’s offense needs a Green or a Hill on the field to give the offense that added dimension.
“I think by (August) two-a-days he’ll be ready,” Green said. “This is his first spring, so he’s learning a lot, and he’s getting a lot of reps. So I’d just give him a little more time.”
There’s more to Hill’s physical growth than just getting bigger. Certain parts of his workouts are tailored to his position, and he has to learn how to carry and play with the added weight.
Hill said he already feels more comfortable in his more robust frame.
“Because working with Balis, you’ll get comfortable with whatever size you get with,” he said. “He’s going to work with you, anything you need to adjust, he’ll help you out.”
Hill’s physical progress is only one aspect of his development, of course. He’s still trying to learn the playbook and master the mental side of playing SEC football.
Hill said he’s getting a good grasp on the system and feels he’ll be ready to contribute next season and start becoming what Mullen envisioned.
“He’s getting there,” Mullen said. “Still got to learn what to do. When he gets that down, he does (look like a tight end), because he has what we look for in a tight end, which is an athlete that causes some mismatch problems.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.