Check out the participation chart for the Texas Longhorns against the UTEP Miners last week and there is one conspicuous absence — on a list that includes numerous walk ons, sophomore cornerback Holton Hill didn’t see the field for a single snap in the season’s second game.
The DNP (coach’s decision) came a week after the potential All-Big 12 selection failed to earn the start against Notre Dame, giving way to senior cornerback Sheroid Evans.
So what’s going on?
Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford fielded that question this week and didn’t mince words, as per usual.
“Our thing right now is if you don’t come to practice every day and practice hard, or you have the opportunity to get in the game, and you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, there’s a good chance you might not touch that football field,” Bedford said. “That’s just where we are with a lot of those guys right now.”
Last season, the 6’2, 179-pounder started eight games in earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors by recording 49 tackles and finishing second on the team with four passes broken up.
Nicknamed Hollywood, Hill’s signature moment came against Oklahoma State, when he elevated to intercept a pass and return it 41 yards for a touchdown in a flash of his incredible upside.
Coming into the season, he was expected to once again earn a starting job opposite fellow sophomore Davante Davis, but the emergence of Evans, the sixth-year senior, and the lack of preparation by Hill resulted in the surprising benching.
According to Bedford, the issue is inconsistency, which resulted in some necessary growing pains due to a lack of options.
In 2016, Evans is back after two ACL injuries and junior Antwuan Davis has emerged as a reliable open-field tackler. Both played in front of Hill against UTEP, as well as nickel corner PJ Locke.
Still, Hill has an opportunity this weekend against Cal, as the Golden Bears will throw the football enough that the ‘Horns will need to get deep into the secondary rotation, where the sophomore is listed as the co-starter after Evans.
This might simply be a minor setback to a major comeback for Hill, who is talented enough to one day play in the NFL, but there’s no question that the coaching staff sent an unmistakable message to Hollywood last week.
Playing time isn’t given based on talent — it’s earned through hard work and preparation.