Breaking down Jaime Hill

Prolific and passionate, Y. secondary coach leads players by example

Published: Sunday, Oct. 7 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

BYU defensive backs coach Jaime Hill is known among his players for his strong work ethic.

Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

Jaime Hill is an intriguing football coach, a man who does not waste words or time; a private personality who can be engagingly direct and precise, yet keeps himself at a safe distance. Kind of like his boss, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

Hill is BYU's secondary coach. He works with 18 corners and safeties, as big of a group as you'll have on a football team. Speaking to Hill, you get the feeling he's got everything tied down. A psychology major, you sense he's got life ink-blot tested, categorized in a folder and interpreted like a character in one of those thriller movies.

Jaime Hill is a lot of things to BYU football these days, but he's anything but an actor. He's a doer. Hill is the Band-Aid fix to that 2005 nightmare in South Bend, when Brady Quinn had a career day feasting on the Cougar secondary.

The Tulsa game aside, Hill's defenders have rarely been caught looking clueless with the ball in the air. Or turned around in an awkward position. Or frozen to a hash mark. Or caught taking a stupid angle ...

To his players, Hill is smart, consistent and a credible, hard-working leader. To Mendenhall, he's a flotation device at the end of a rescue rope, a piece of the puzzle that's given the third-year head coach room to breathe.

While at New Mexico, as one of the youngest defensive coordinators in Division I football, Mendenhall learned firsthand the energy it takes to live in a dark film room for hours, studying plays, breaking down tendencies, formulating game plans, adjusting schemes and then sharing that knowledge with others.

But when Mendenhall took the BYU head coaching job in December 2005, he thought he could do all that coordinator stuff and be the Cougar head coach.

He was wrong. The job pulled at him from all directions mentally and physically. Being BYU's head football coach is part mission president, part seminary teacher and part cultural politician before football even enters into the picture.

In 2006, when cornerback coach Brian Mitchell left BYU for Texas Tech, Mendenhall looked for relief. He wasn't ready to give up his D-coordinator responsibility, but he needed a Mendenhall-like mind and passion to shadow him. He found his man in Hill, a man, like many football coaches, who would eat, sleep and drink the game

Somebody like him.

"When I leave a defensive meeting, I turn the (film) clicker to coach Hill," said Mendenhall. "When I'm not in the room, he transitions. When I walk back in the room, we don't miss a beat and he hands it right back and (we) keep going. It has allowed me to handle the necessities of the day.

"I think you can see his contribution in the way our secondary has played the past two seasons. He's been a real strength in moving the team forward."

Hill played at Grossmont Community College near his home in San Diego, a school recruited by longtime BYU assistant Lance Reynolds. But Reynolds didn't know Hill.

Hill also coached at San Francisco State College with current Philadelphia Eagle coach Andy Reid. He coached with the San Francisco 49ers around the time current BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe was on the staff.

But none of these connections led Hill to BYU.

It was former BYU cornerbacks coach Dwayne Walker, now defensive coordinator at UCLA, who gave BYU Hill's most weighty recommendation.

Said Holmoe: "When I asked Bronco who some of his candidates for the job were, he mentioned Hill as one of them. I was surprised that somehow Bronco had dug down and found him. I hadn't mentioned Hill to him, and I told Bronco then, from what I remembered of him with the 49ers, he was a good fit, a great coach, a real cerebral guy."

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