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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

By Sammy Batten

Hill enrolled and preparing to make impact


By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

The East Carolina Pirates could use a blue-chip defensive end this season. But the Pirates will have to wait until next year before they'll benefit from one of the most highly ranked line prospects to ever enroll in school.

Through a quirk in the NCAA academic rules, one-time Alabama recruit Alfy Hill is now attending ECU. A graduate of West Brunswick High School in Shallotte, NC, Hill is paying his way to school this fall and if he completes academic requirements will be eligible to join the football team for spring practice.

Chances are the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder who has been clocked at 4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash will compete for a starting job immediately. That's how good Hill is, and why more than 30 major-college programs tendered scholarship offers. It's also the reason rated Hill the nation's No. 8 prospect as a strongside defensive end.

Alabama eventually won a recruiting battle with North Carolina for Hill last September and signed him to a national letter-of-intent in February. He actually enrolled at Alabama for summer school, recording two Bs and an A in three courses, then joined the Crimson Tide for preseason practice.

Hill appeared headed for playing time on special teams as a true freshman for the defending national champions when in mid-August he was suddenly withdrawn from Alabama's practice because the NCAA had questions about his transcript from West Brunswick. In a ruling that still befuddles the minds of those at Alabama and West Brunswick, the NCAA declared Hill academically ineligible due to issues it had with a course he took as a high school sophomore.

“He was devastated,'' West Brunswick head coach and guidance counselor Jimmy Fletcher said. “Here he's been at Alabama since June 7 or 8, and has taken nine hours of college courses. He made two Bs and an A, and he's practicing with the team. The coaches say he's doing great. They loved him at Alabama.

“Then, all of a sudden, they've (NCAA) got a question. My problem is if you have a question why not tell me in June when we had time to put together an argument.

“But again, they (NCAA) are the almighty. They don't have to answer to anyone.''

Hill took the course in question during a sophomore year. He had broken his hand during football season and couldn't participate in the physical education class he was signed up for at West Brunswick. Had he been able to complete and pass the physical education class, he would have been eligible.

But instead Hill moved to a world geography course that he took online at the school. It was a course that Fletcher had used for several years with potential college athletes.

“Over the last three years that Alfy was in school we've had 130 to 140 kids take that class,'' Fletcher said. “It is a computer generated course. I've had football players who have taken it go to East Carolina. I've had baseball players got to UNC-Pembroke with the same course. I didn't even think about it being a problem. If I thought it would be a problem I obviously wouldn't have used it with Alfy.

“It's kind of like the NCAA changed rules in mid-stream. I just wish they (NCAA) would have sent something out to high schools saying we can no longer use this world geography course.''

Perhaps the most frustrating part for Fletcher is that he couldn't get the NCAA to respond to letters and phone calls asking for a chance to appeal their decision.

“I've tried, our superintendent has tried and our principal has tried,'' Fletcher said. “We've written numerous letters and e-mails and nobody has responded. That's the most frustrating part. You have a kid who has done everything we told him to do and everything Alabama told him to do. So the least you can do is listen to his appeal. Have the decency to call me.

“But all I've gotten is one e-mail from them basically saying, 'Sorry we haven't returned your phone call. It's a very busy time of the year for us.' ''

When Hill was ruled ineligible at Alabama, his options were limited. He could attend a junior college in Arizona and have only two years of eligibility at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, or pay his way to ECU for a year, sit out his freshman year and have four years of eligibility.

Fletcher said Hill has settled in at ECU and is working hard in the classroom and the weight room.

“He says it's going well, and that he's working hard on his grades,'' Fletcher said. “I don't know the rules, but I do know he can work out in the weight room, just not with the team.''

One East Carolina player who has already befriended Hill is freshman defensive end Justin Dixon. Dixon faced a similar road to Greenville after graduating from Smithfield-Selma High School.

He originally signed to play at North Carolina in February 2009, but failed to qualify academically. Dixon then sought to enroll at Hargrave Military Academy, but that plan also fell through. He then enrolled at ECU in August 2009 and sat out the football season.

Dixon said he met Hill in a study hall soon after he arrived in Greenville.

“We talked and we've hung out some,'' Dixon said. “I've tried to encourage him. We have a lot in common. I was supposed to go to Carolina and that backfired. But that's life. Stuff like that happens and you have to keep your head up and keep going. It doesn't mean the world will stop and you should give up on football.

“He's working hard and I think he's going to be a great player for us next year.''

Fletcher agrees.

“I will be surprised if he's not,'' Fletcher said. “The kid just has so much God-given ability. If he lives up to that potential, he could be a great one for them.''

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10/20/2010 01:01:40 AM


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