MSU’s Thomp­son, Hill get chance as fresh­men

Starkville Daily News - - S - By JOEL COLE­MAN sports@starkvilledai­

Some­time in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture, it’s not too hard to pic­ture true fresh­men Key­taon Thomp­son and Kylin Hill as the back­bone of Mis­sis­sippi State’s of­fense.

Thomp­son, MSU’s backup quar­ter­back, and Hill, a run­ning back, are each highly-re­garded young­sters. They both have high ceil­ings and both are get­ting their feet wet and get­ting on­the-job train­ing this sea­son as con­trib­u­tors for the Bull­dogs.

So far this year, Thomp­son and Hill say they are us­ing their op­por­tu­ni­ties as chances to lay the foun­da­tion for the fu­ture.

“I’m feel­ing good,” Hill said. “The games that I play in, it’s just more ex­pe­ri­ence. I’m learn­ing a lot of stuff.”

Thomp­son feels sim­i­larly.

“I’m feel­ing com­fort­able now,” Thomp­son said. “My heart rate has slowed down (from ear­lier this sea­son). I’m see­ing things from de­fenses much bet­ter. I’m see­ing the checks. I’m see­ing plays I can make and plays I can’t. I’m just much more com­fort­able.”

For all their sim­i­lar­i­ties and fa­mil­iar grow­ing pains, Thomp­son and Hill each have dif­fer­ent roles in their first year as Bull­dogs. Hill has jumped up the depth chart and be­come one of the go-to guys to spell start­ing run­ning back Aeris Wil­liams. Through five games, Hill has lived up to the hype sur­round­ing him when he be­came MSU’s most highly-rated run­ning back signee in 15 years as he has rushed for 190 yards and a touch­down. Wil­liams is the only other run­ning back on the ros­ter with more rush­ing yards than Hill.

“He’s grow­ing and grow­ing,” MSU run­ning backs coach Greg Knox said of Hill. “He’s get­ting smarter. That’s the whole key to his progress is that the more he can learn, the bet­ter player he’ll be.”

Hill has all the phys­i­cal skills to be­come a star in the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence. He’s 5-foot-11 and weights 212 pounds. His frame looks to be chis­eled out of stone. A lot of times, Hill’s phys­i­cal skills are enough for him.

How­ever Knox says, for Hill to take the next step in his growth, de­vel­op­ment must come between the ears.

“His big­gest thing to grow is be­ing able to bet­ter learn the of­fense and be able to re­act with­out think­ing,” Knox said of Hill. “He has to get a sig­nal, then re­act to that sig­nal and do less think­ing. Right now, he’s still think­ing. He gets a sig­nal and he’s still think­ing about what he has to do and how he has to do it. Guys like (ju­nior run­ning back Don­ta­vian Lee) and (Wil­liams), once they get a sig­nal, they just re­act and don’t think any­more. They know ex­actly what they’re do­ing. (Hill) is try­ing to get him­self to that point.

“There are a lot of things that just take time, but he’s work­ing at it. He’s get­ting bet­ter. I’m see­ing him take steps for­ward and he’s mak­ing progress.”

Hill ad­mits he has had trou­ble mak­ing his mind slow down. Now at the mid­way point of the sea­son though, he says he’s settling in.

“When I first got here, I was just wor­ried about not mess­ing up and I was think­ing too much,” Hill said. “Now I’m just more com­fort­able and re­laxed and I’m just play­ing my game. I’m ready to go.”

Thomp­son, too, is find­ing his groove. With all five of MSU’s games this sea­son de­cided by lop­sided mar­gins one way or the other, it has pro­vided Thomp­son with the chance to play in ev­ery con­test.

He has com­pleted six of his 17 passes for 63 yards and a touch­down. He has rushed for 102 yards on 15 car­ries.

Thomp­son has been pleased with the work he’s done so far, but is far from sat­is­fied.

“There have been a few plays here and there I’d like to have back,” Thomp­son said. “Aside from those few plays, I think I’ve done well.”

MSU quar­ter­back coach Brett El­liott says Thomp­son is “way ahead” of where most true fresh­man quar­ter­backs are at this point. El­liott said Thomp­son had to ad­just early on this sea­son as he adapted to the col­lege life­style, but at this point, Thomp­son is find­ing his rhythm on and away from the field and he con­tin­ues to learn and grow.

“He’s gone through ups and downs like any fresh­man with a class load and all that, but he has re­bounded well,” El­liott said. “He has learned to man­age his time a lit­tle bet­ter.”

On the field, El­liott says MSU has been work­ing with Thomp­son to ad­just his throw­ing mo­tion. The Bull­dogs want Thomp­son to get the foot­ball higher, not push it as much and de­velop a more nat­u­ral mo­tion.

El­liott be­lieves Thomp­son will be fully com­fort­able with all that by this spring. It will give an­other layer of tal­ent to Thomp­son, who El­liott says even has “a lit­tle bit more nat­u­ral quar­ter­back in him” than starter Nick Fitzger­ald.

“They’re dif­fer­ent play­ers, but they’re both big, dual-threat guys,” El­liott added.

Both Thomp­son and Hill’s bright­est days are likely ahead of them. Hill will con­tinue to work on the men­tal as­pects of his game while Thomp­son fine tunes his throw­ing mo­tion and other com­po­nents of his craft.

In the mean­time, Mis­sis­sippi State sup­port­ers can sit back and en­joy watch­ing the next wave of tal­ented of­fen­sive Bull­dogs grow up right be­fore their very eyes.

(Photo by Ja­son Cleve­land, SDN)

Mis­sis­sippi State true fresh­man run­ning back Kylin Hill (8) watches the ac­tion from the side­line.

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