STILLWATER — David Glidden recognizes one thing in what he’s seen from Tyreek Hill: “an unbelievable talent.”
Yet describing Hill, providing details on those talents… well, that’s something different, and seemingly difficult, more challenging even than trying to catch the proven track star.
“Everybody I talk to,” Glidden said, “they ask me about him and I say, ‘You’re just going to have to wait and see. It’s something you can’t really describe.’”
Cowboys coaches – and fans – hope Hill ultimately gains a simple description.
And that’s game changer on a large scale, in terms of enhancing Oklahoma State’s season, and engaging the Tyreek the Freek phenomena nationally.
By now, everyone paying attention has heard about Hill’s speed, and it’s legit. He blazed to OSU records in the 60-meter dash twice during the indoor track season and won the 200 at the Big 12 championships.
As a high school track standout in Georgia, he covered the 200 in 20.14 – the second fastest prep mark in the U.S. … ever. That time, understand, would have placed sixth at the 2012 London Olympics.
So OK, Hill is fast.
But can he play football?
“Tyreek is not just track fast, he’s football fast,” said Cowboys cornerback Kevin Peterson, who has dealt with Hill in practice. “And he has good jukes, a low center of gravity.
“The more the ball is in his hands, the better I feel as a defense. Because we’re not going to be on the field.”
And therein lies the question, perhaps the defining question to this Cowboys season.
How much will Hill have the ball in his hands?
Mike Gundy has said the goal is to get Hill 15 to 20 touches a game. As a prototypical multi-purpose player, there are varied ways to accomplish that, involving the three Rs: rushing, receiving and returning.
Expect Hill to do it all.
At Garden City Community College, Hill did do it all, even appearing as a wildcat quarterback on occasion. So potentially add passing to his expanded tool kit.
"He can throw,” said Garden City coach Matt Miller. “But I don't think he ever completed a pass for me."
Still, the threat alone is enough to stress defensive coordinators, who must find ways to account for Hill at all times.
“Tyreek puts a lot of stress on us,” said Cowboys defensive assistant Van Malone. “You don’t know where he’s going to be lining up. Is he going to be a running back? Is he going to be a receiver? You don’t know.
“For defenses, that’s a problem. Because we sit over on the sideline and say, ‘OK, what personnel do they have in the game?’ They have three wide receivers, two running backs…’
“Tyreek comes in, what is he? Initially before you make a call, he’s a problem, because you don’t even know what he is. ‘Oh, he’s a wide receiver this time, we’ve got to send out another DB.’ Then he’s a running back the next time. So before the ball even snaps, there’s a problem.”
The problem doesn’t end there.
“And then when the ball snaps,” Malone said, “he’s got this little button he turns on and makes him run real fast.”
Imagine the things you can do with a weapon like Hill.
OSU offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich imagines all the time.
“Not a day goes past where you’re not trying to pencil in something for him,” Yurcich said as his eyes brighten. “Whether it’s a reverse or a screen or whatever, a draw play. It never really stops. You’re always trying to think of something.
“It keeps you fresh. Even if you don’t install something, you’ve thought about a certain play and you’ve toyed around with it. And you think, ‘How’s a defense going to stop this play? And when they stop it, now, how do we counter?’”
Yurcich allows that defenses will adjust to the plays Hill runs.
“We have great coaches all around this league,” he said. “They’ll get on the sideline and talk about it and adjust.”
And yet, with Hill, there’s always the speed.
And that’s an adjustment that may not exist.
“If I was coaching defense and somebody had a player that was really fast,” Gundy said, “you have to be concerned about the style of play you have in the back end of your defense. What we’re hoping is that if he breaks through the initial front line, he’s gone. It’s hard to catch him.
“We haven’t really had that type of player in a while. We’re hoping he brings that to our offense.”
And in bringing that, Hill should create opportunities for OSU’s other playmakers, which are abundant.
Running back Desmond Roland, whom Hill could share the backfield with, would attract less attention. Defenses focused on Hill may leave receivers like Jhajuan Seales, Brandon Sheperd, Marcell Ateman et al, in man-to-man coverage.
Quarterback J.W. Walsh could face less pressure, physical and mental.
“He can light it up really quickly,” Malone said. “And that makes it even better for these other guys. You’re going to worry about him, you’ve got three guys on him, we’ll throw it over here where you’ve got one guy.”
Gundy strained to produce a Cowboy with comparable speed.
Not Barry Sanders. Not Tatum Bell. Not Dez Bryant or Justin Blackmon. Not Daniel McLemore, the former OSU defensive back who also ran track.
Gundy threw out 1990s running back Rafael Denson as a similarly styled player, in terms of versatility, only to qualify the suggestion.
“But he’s faster than Rafael Denson,” Gundy said.
So perhaps Hill truly is indescribable.
“He’s the fastest guy I’ve ever seen live,” Gundy said.
If there were any questions surrounding Hill coming out of spring, they were aimed at his durability and toughness, natural considering his 5-foot-10 and 185-pound build. In a short spring period that saw him share time with the track team, those concerns were left unanswered.
Throughout a rugged August, however, Hill has checked off the boxes, not only running away from defenders, but seeking them out at times for punishment.
The only lingering issue – a description befitting Tyreek the Freek.
“Explosive plays. It looks like he never gets tired,” said Cowboys running back Desmond Roland. “That’s that Olympic track shape he’s in. His legs just keep going and going.
“I can’t wait to see him in game time… can’t wait to see him in action.”