LSU running back Jeremy Hill made offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Hill pleaded guilty to misdemeanor simple battery in July, after being arrested in April for punching a man outside a Baton Rouge bar.
The sophomore's reinstatement to the football program came, in part, after a team vote. The decision by head coach Les Miles to allow the team to play a role—either real or perceived—in the decision-making process was met with harsh criticism.
Hill traveled but didn't play in LSU's opener at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. He then played a reserve role in Game 2 versus UAB, rushing six times for 50 yards and a touchdown.
And then, it happened.
Hill burst back on to the scene with 117 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Kent State, and followed it up with a career-high 184 yards and three touchdowns against Auburn.
Not only is he playing like the Jeremy Hill of old, he's better.
Hill currently ranks fourth in the SEC in rushing yards with 351, behind Arkansas' Alex Collins (481) and Jonathan Williams (418), and Georgia's Todd Gurley (377). This despite missing one game and not playing a major role in another.
If he keeps this up, and produces at an elite level for the rest of the season, he absolutely should be considered for SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors.
That didn't seem possible after he was relegated to being an afterthought during LSU's first two games, and Alfred Blue and Terrence Magee looked capable of shouldering at least some of the load.
They don't have to anymore, thanks to Hill's re-emergence for the Tigers.
He has provided even more stability for a suddenly potent LSU offense that has topped the 400-yard mark in each of its first four games.
Hill's previous off-the-field issues could be a major hurdle to overcome. In addition to his arrest for simple battery, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile in January 2012. Would the SEC's coaches—who vote on the award—take that into consideration?
Some might, but that hurdle can be overcome with a few more sizzling performances like Hill's 184-yard effort Saturday night.
It's early, and there's a lot of football left for Hill and the Tigers, including games against tough defenses—versus Florida and at Alabama. But so far so good in his return to the Tigers.
If he keeps this up, don't be surprised to see Hill jump back into the mix after a slow start to the season.
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