Losing Austin Hill a big blow to Arizona

One of the main selling points for Arizona's sneaky potential in 2013 was receiver Austin Hill. With the return of Hill and running back Ka'Deem Carey, the Wildcats had probably the best catch-run combo in the Pac-12. That figured to provide a considerable boon to whomever won the starting job at quarterback.

But now Hill is likely lost for the season with a torn ACL. What does that mean for the Wildcats?

It ain't good.

At the beginning of spring practices, you could say that the Wildcats were deep at receiver. Seven of the eight receivers on the bowl game depth chart were slated to return. But, really, a lot of that was Hill, second-team All-Pac-12, leading a group of promising young players.

Not to be Debbie Downer on this, but consider the situation now.

Hill and his 81 receptions for 1,364 yards and school-record-tying 11 TDs are gone, as are the 61 catches for 773 yards and five TDs from departed senior Dan Buckner.

Carey was the Wildcats' third-leading receiver. No. 4 was David Richards, with just 29 receptions for 298 yards and three TDs. No other returning receiver had more than two TDs in 2012.

Now, the situation isn't desperate. Far from it. There are a number of Pac-12 teams that would switch receivers with the Wildcats, even without Hill. And if Notre Dame transfer Davonte' Neal wins his appeal with the NCAA and is ruled immediately eligible, he could become a premier playmaker.

Further, there's plenty of intriguing talent with a mixture of size, speed and experience, a list topped by 6-foot-4 Terrence Miller, who won a year back due to a medical waiver from the NCAA, junior Tyler Slavin and junior Garic Wharton. The redshirt freshmen had solid springs, including Trey Griffey, Clive Georges and Jarrell Bennett. Further, as many as six incoming signees could end up as receivers.

Again, not desperate.

But Hill was a game-changer. He wasn't a burner, but his hands were as good as any player in the conference. He bailed out quarterback Matt Scott many times last year, and any ball he could get a finger on was likely to be caught.

Hill, a redshirt junior, could rush through his rehab and return sometime next fall. His plan likely was to enter the 2014 NFL draft. Now he has the option of coming back in 2014 as a senior, perhaps to buoy his NFL stock and overcome injury concerns.

But that's a future issue for Hill and the Wildcats.

The present problem for Arizona is a perceived strength now has become a question mark. The Wildcats have now become a team looking for a go-to target in the passing game.

Of course, a present Arizona receiver might see that as an opportunity, not a problem.