By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – If someone has to pull double duty there may not be a better candidate than Mike Hilton.
It looks like, though, that the recent emergence of an Ole Miss freshman teammate in A.J. Moore could make Hilton’s time at his second position more of a luxury than a necessity.
Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack is quite pleased with his sophomore Huskie in Tony Conner.
“Huskie” is what the Rebels call their fifth defensive back, a guy who plays close to the line of scrimmage. He’ll help in run support but have pass coverage responsibilities too.
Hilton made a name for himself there when he won the job in the middle of his freshman season two years ago.
Last year, Hilton was needed at cornerback.
This year Conner’s backup, Chief Brown, sustained a season-ending Achilles injury in a conditioning workout in June.
Hilton has been working at both positions even after a season-ending injury to heralded junior college transfer cornerback Tee Shepard.
“I switch from corner to Husky. They make sure I’m on top of everything. I watch film with the corners one day, then go watch it with the Huskies and make sure I’m not making too many mistakes, make sure I can handle it,” Hilton says.
They have to make sure he doesn’t get worn down also.
Wommack, though, has great confidence in Hilton to be better than average at two positions. Such moves carry the risk that a player could be less proficient at both positions than if he had to know only one.
“There’s always that concern when you double train somebody. You lose a little something. They can’t get totally focused on one thing,” Wommack said.
“I’m glad he’s a veteran and has been here for two years. He knows it. We couldn’t do this with a younger guy, that’s for sure.”
The emergence of Moore may make Hilton’s double duty less necessary. A consensus three-star recruit as an outside linebacker, Moore has embraced the Huskie position.
“A.J., we really didn’t expect him to step up as fast as he did,” Wommack said. “That’s taken some of the pressure off of Mike. He’s done a great job of learning what he’s supposed to do. I feel totally comfortable with him going into the game and playing a lot.”
That may mean Hilton sees a lot more time at corner.
Playing primarily Huskie in 2012 he had 3 1-2 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
Last year nine of his 11 starts were at corner. One was at Huskie, another at free safety. He missed two games with a hamstring injury.
Though he broke up five passes and picked off another, Hilton says he’s felt a lot more comfortable at corner recently than last season.
Most of that confidence surge comes in his press coverage.
“Just having a full summer to get my technique down, work with coach (Jason) Jones on small things and get a better feel. I switched in the middle of the season. Having the full summer has really helped me,” Hilton said.