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BYU football: BYU's coach Hill rises, falls with 'D'

Published September 23, 2009 10:44 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Asked recently to describe BYU defensive coordinator Jaime Hill, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said Hill is a coach who always seems to have his game face on.

"A lot like Bronco [Mendenhall]," Holmoe said.

Hill, sternly, of course, has no qualms with that description: "Football is my job, my workplace," he said. Aside from family, "there's not much room for anythng else in my life."

An assistant football coach at almost every level of the sport -- NFL, Canadian Football League and XFL to almost all college levels -- Hill was hired by Mendenhall as a secondary coach in 2006 and promoted to defensive coordinator in 2008. He's been a coach at no fewer than 12 places during the past 21 years.

"I'm happy I'm at BYU, and with the success we've had," he said, when it was noted this is tied for his longest stop at one place. "Every stop I have made, I have had the opportunity to help the program, I feel."

Players and fellow assistant coaches describe him as intensely private individual who does not talk much and can be painfully straightforward when he does.

"He's a businessman," said BYU defensive back Brandon Bradley. "He's very business-like in everything that he does. He's here to do a job, and that is what he intends to do."

Mendenhall turned the defensive play-calling duties over to Hill at the beginning of the season, with positive results the first two games when the Cougars allowed just one touchdown (to Oklahoma) and a combined total of 16 points. BYU was among the nation's team leaders in defense.

But Saturday's meltdown against Florida State -- the defense gave up six touchdowns and 313 rushing yards (512 yards overall) -- has brought increased scrutiny on Hill like perhaps never before in his four-year tenure at BYU.

"No different than the problems that we have had since I have been here," Hill said. "We just need guys to execute their responsibility, to be more exact and precise. Not all of it is on the players. It is on the coaches as well. We have to do a better job coaching, and they have to do a better job playing."

So who is this guy whose charge it now is to right the Cougars defensively?

The only African-American coach on BYU's staff, Hill gained some national notoriety in 2007 when, as the defensive backs coach, he helped the Cougars win a conference title and go 11-2 with a secondary full of walk-ons. Hill was the only coach in Division-I football starting four walk-ons -- Ben Criddle, Kayle Buchanan, Corby Hodgkiss and Kellen Fowler.

While announcing last July that Hill would take over the defensive play-calling, Mendenhall described Hill as "extremely professional" and a man passionate about his family and football.

"Outwardly, it might not seem like it, but this is what he loves to do," Mendenhall said.

Hill agreed with that assessment, saying other than football his passions are his wife, LaShanda, and his three children. Twin daughters Brianna and Tichelle are seniors in high school, and son Marcquet is a freshman in hig school who plays basketball and soccer, but not football.

Nick Howell, graduate assistant for the defense, works as closely with Hill as anyone on the staff.

"Two things that make coach Hill tick are football and his family," Howell said. "Those are the two things that are most important to him. He loves the players, too -- so three things, I guess."

Hill said he has no particular coaching style, preferring to call himself "adaptable to the situations that are presented to me."

Seemingly, though, his play calling is more aggressive. The Cougars have blitzed more in the last three games than perhaps all of last season. However, Mendenhall said Hill's aggressiveness is not the only reason for the increased pressure.

"The play-calling, the opponent we are playing, but also the offseason analysis on how we could do better" are the reasons, he said.

Safety Scott Johnson said Hill inspires confidence in his players, but never makes it personal. Indeed, Hill refuses to talk about individual players, and deflects praise away from himself in virtually every interview.

"He has been a huge force for us," Johnson said. "He is demanding. Even when we had that huge win against Oklahoma, he was out here coaching just as hard and yelling just as much two days later. He just demands that everything be done the right way."

Johnson said Hill "lightens us up" every once in awhile, "but he brings it back to serious football" real fast.

Hill acknowledged he would like to be a head coach some day, but said he doesn't have a timetable. Regrettably, only seven of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision programs in the country have African-American head coaches.

"That is my goal, and this is the next step in the process," he said. "No timetable, though....at some point the landscape will change [and more African-Americans will get head coaching opportunities]. Part of the process is for me to go through this process to see if I can help us as a people, in a sense, move forward."

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Jaime Hill File

Years at BYU » 4

Prior to BYU » Spent three seasons in the Canadian Football League as assistant coach for Ottawa (2004-05) and Calgary (2003).

Total years coaching » 21

Other coaching stops » Humboldt State (2002), XFL San Francisco (2001), San Francisco 49ers (1997-98), Portland State (1993-96), University of Chicago (1992), Sonoma State (1990-91), Northern Arizona (1989), UTEP (1988), San Francisco State (1987).

Playing career » Grossmont Junior College (1982-83) and San Francisco State (1984-85).

Hometown » San Diego, Calif.