South Alabama football notes: Walk-on running back Bryan Hill awarded scholarship

South Alabama opened fall football camp on Friday with a full allocation of 85 scholarship players.

Running back Bryan Hill has been awarded a scholarship after spending last season as a walk-on, head coach Kane Wommack said. Hill, a junior from Mobile who played his high school ball at McGill-Toolen Catholic School, was the Jaguars’ second-leading rusher last season with 369 yards and three touchdowns.

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Hill joined the South Alabama program prior to the 2021 season after previously playing at Division II Tuskegee. He stayed with the Jaguars this past offseason after his father, Earnest, left the USA coaching staff to take a job at UAB.

Wommack has publicly pledged to award at least five scholarships to Mobile-area players each year, be they either incoming freshmen recruits, transfers from other schools or former walk-ons. Hill becomes the fifth of that group for 2022, joining freshman running back Braylon McReynolds of McGill-Toolen, freshman linebacker Blayne Myrick of Fairhope, offensive lineman Daniel Foster-Allen of St. Paul’s (Auburn transfer) and tight end DJ Thomas-Jones of Saraland (Ole Miss transfer).

“I’ve said from Day 1 we want to be focused on Mobile players and we want to give opportunities to the players in Mobile and Baldwin County to create real impact in their community,” Wommack said. “And so when you have a commitment to taking five guys from this area every year, it’s important that you bring the right people that are going to model what that needs to look like for years to come.

“And so Bryan Hill being the last of those five players from a walk-on position to now earning a scholarship — he did a tremendous job in Year 1 of understanding what we want him to do, and produced on the field as a walk- Wed. I thought he had a really tremendous offseason, particularly in the summer when he got healthy, and has certainly done his part to earn a scholarship for us.”

South Alabama headed into the summer with one scholarship remaining, a slot Wommack had initially planned to fill with a Division I transfer. When no one worthy of that roster spot emerged, Wommack awarded that scholarship to Hill.

• Hill’s fellow running back La’Damian Webb was dressed out and participating in parts of practice Friday after missing more than half the spring with a broken foot. Webb suffered an additional injury during the offseason, when he broke his right hand after falling down a flight of stairs.

Webb is a former Mr. Football at Beauregard High School who spent the 2020 season at Florida State and was briefly at Troy in 2021 before earning first-team NJCAA All-America honors at Jones (Miss.) College last season. He participated in only a handful of drills Friday with a cast on his right wrist and a heavy tape job on his right foot, but Wommack said he is “well ahead of schedule” in his recovery from both injuries.

“La’Damian is such a gifted athlete and when you have guys like that, they tend to heal quicker than the rest of us,” Wommack said. “So I think he’s in a really good place with what he’s doing right now. And I think we’ll get to see him sooner than what we thought, both in practice and on the (game) field.”

Terrion Avery, last season’s leading rusher with 538 yards on 138 carries, was the first running back on the field for 11-on-11 drills Friday. Omni Wells, a graduate transfer from Mississippi State, also worked extensively with the first-team offense.

• In addition to Webb, most of the South Alabama players who missed most or all of spring practice are back at full strength this fall. That list includes tight ends Lincoln Sefcik and Brandon Crum, wide receiver Jay’juan Townsend, quarterback Eli Gainey, offensive linemen Antawn Lewis, Adrein Strickland and Trey Simpson, linebacker DK Bonhomme and cornerback Jamar Richardson.

Two players who won’t suit up for a while are defensive lineman CJ Person and cornerback Dallas Gamble, both of whom are recovering from offseason injuries. They were not included on the 110-man fall camp roster, Wommack said, but will be added when the roster expands in conjunction with the opening of fall semester classes Aug. 18.

• Freshman defensive lineman RJ Moss also won’t play for the Jaguars this season for academic reasons, Wommack said. Moss, from Biloxi, Miss., is among the highest-rated recruits the Jaguars have ever signed.

Moss is currently with the team in fall camp, but won’t be allowed to practice or play until after the 2022 season. South Alabama has excellent depth along the defensive line, however, so it’s likely Moss would have played sparingly even if he was eligible.

• South Alabama is back on the practice field Saturday morning, and will also work Sunday and Monday before the first off day of camp on Tuesday. The first day in full pads is Thursday.

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