Jay Hill is the right coach for Weber State, I firmly believe that.
From everything I’ve seen, the first-year head coach has a vision, the plan to implement it and the patience to ride through the rough patches. There’s a difference between having a plan, as in “This is what I want to have happen,” and having a plan as in “This is what I want to have happen and these are the detailed steps we’ll take to get there.”
Hill’s plan is the latter. It’s detailed.
But this is college football we’re talking about. Even here in Ogden, where Weber State has never been a football powerhouse, there is pressure to win and win right away, regardless of how detailed the plan is. Oh sure, the seat isn’t as hot here as it is in other places, but make no mistake, this isn’t a charity situation.
If the Wildcats don’t succeed, a price will eventually be paid.
And so far this season, the ‘Cats haven’t seen a lot of success. Progress? Sure, however incremental. But success, in terms of actual Ws on the scoreboard? No. They’ve yet to win a game this season.
That’s why this weekend’s trip to Cedar City to face Southern Utah is very critical. Now, there’s no need to start throwing around the ridiculous sports term “must-win” at this point. Shoot, Hill is just four games into his first season at WSU, where he inherited a team in flux, a program in transition and a 2014 schedule tougher than a hunk of microwaved day-old ribeye steak.
Anyone who thought Hill would tiptoe into town, wave a magic wand and suddenly make the ‘Cats title contenders wasn’t thinking realistically. In a few conversations I’ve had with him, I’ve had the feeling he can get the program turned around ahead of schedule, but only if he catches a few breaks along the way.
So far this season, there haven’t been any breaks.
As they head down to Cedar City, the ‘Cats are 0-4 and in need of a pelt to hang on the wall. Like Weber State, SUU is also 0-4 and feeling pressure to see something good on which to hang their hopes.
“There’s no doubt,” Hill said following Thursday’s practice at Stewart Stadium. “I mean, this is a big game. It’s a rivalry game, we go head to head with those guys in recruiting, we’ve gone head to head with them in with coaches. I mean, it’s a big game for us – it’s a big game for them.”
And then there’s the important little fact that each team is beginning Big Sky Conference play, where there’s sure to be a race to see who climbs higher up the standings.
“We desperately need to get something positive going in our programs because both teams are close to turning the corner,” Hill added.
Before they can turn the corner, the ‘Cats need to pull themselves up from the winless gutter they’re standing in. Eventually they’ll do that and getting a win Saturday will help help expedite the process if for no other reason than it gives them a taste of success, which reinforces for them all the things Hill has been preaching since he got here.
And from Hill’s perspective, each game his guys play without a victory quite naturally plants tiny seeds of doubt in their minds. At this point, those doubts may not even register but as they add up, they erode lots of hard work.
“Absolutely it’s a concern,” he said. “But do I sense that from this team? Absolutely not. But what we need is some success to go on and for these guys to say, in their minds, ‘See, what coach Hill is telling us is correct and it’s going to lead us to victory.’”
Quarterback Billy Green said the players continue to buy what Hill is selling, which is of course a good thing. Beyond that, he agreed that a win Saturday would help reinforce that faith, also a good thing.
“It’d be awesome,” he said. “We’d celebrate and we’d be focused on going in and getting the next one.”
There’s no doubt, there is pressure on the ‘Cats going into Saturday’s game. Perhaps that feels a bit unfair but if you’re looking for fairness, keep on looking. You won’t find it around college football.
“I don’t mind the pressure because pressure if what college football’s all about,” Hill said. “You go play in the SEC and every week is that way. You go play in the Pac-12 and every week is pressure packed. Every week, no matter who you’re playing or what level you’re playing, the other team can win if you don’t show up. That’s why there is pressure in this and it’s supposed to be that way.”
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo