Jay Hill

Weber State coach Jay Hill speaks with safety Trey Hoskins during the Wildcats’ loss to James Madison in the 2017 FCS quarterfinals at Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg.

The ascent has been a quick one for Jay Hill.

Not only in his build of the Weber State football program, but also for himself in regard to becoming one of the premier coaches in the FCS.

A win in Saturday’s national semifinal over James Madison would give Hill and the Wildcats the opportunity to play for the FCS title next month in Frisco, Texas.

“Quite frankly we thought we had that team each of the last two years,” Hill said. “We had big-time battles in each of the quarterfinals the last two years and thought if the ball would’ve bounced our way once or twice in those fourth quarters that we very well could’ve done it the last two years.

“And this year, it’s repeat and try to take one more step forward. And hopefully we’re in the middle of that step and we’re not done yet.”

Hill has won more games than all but one coach – Kennesaw State’s Brian Bohannon – in the subdivision since the start of the 2017 season while reaching the quarterfinals in all of those campaigns.

Bohannon has guided Kennesaw State to 34 victories in that span and Hill has led Weber State to 32 wins in that time, but Hill’s Wildcats did beat Bohannon’s Owls in the second round of the playoffs earlier this month.

And consider this: when Hill took the Weber State job it was grim, according to Wildcats senior defensive end Jonah Williams. Weber State had gone 4-19 during Jody Sears’ two years at the helm in 2012 and 2013.

“So I served in a LDS mission in Brazil for a couple of years,” Williams, a STATS FCS second-team All-American, said. “So I was recruited when the team went [2-10]. And they weren’t doing any winning, but it was my only scholarship opportunity and I took it.

“And I got back and there was just something different. There was more excitement in the community and we ended up going 6-5 that first year, with the mentality for the next year to do better and it’s just there’s always been more and more excitement.”

As a result the turnaround for the school in Ogden, Utah, has Hill, who earlier in his career worked as an assistant for Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham at Utah, mentioned for jobs elsewhere. Earlier this week, FootballScoop.com reported Hill was a strong candidate to become the coach at New Mexico before the Lobos hired Danny Gonzales.

And this week Hill told the Daily News-Record, that last year he had initial conversations with JMU after former coach Mike Houston departed for East Carolina.

“I spoke to people. I did,” Hill said. “And it’s very intriguing, but that’s a hard deal when you’re dealing with a team and you just played that team the year before (in the 2017 quarterfinals when JMU beat Weber State 31-28), especially when my respect and everything is so high for that program.

“I did not interview officially out there. I talked to some people and that job obviously is a very intriguing one to everybody, just because it’s such a good job.”

Now Hill will try to lead the Wildcats past the Dukes in order to take that next step him and his program desire.

“Jay Hill is very consistent with his energy and attitude,” Williams said. “That’s the biggest thing. We never see Coach Hill come in with a bad day or not ready to go, so he’s consistent that way. And then I think he’s consistent with the accountability of the team and the coaches. You don’t see coaches or players getting away with things. There’s accountability for everything and for everyone on the team.”

Hill added he believes his players have learned lessons over the past few seasons that have them prepared for Saturday.

“I think the players have really bought into the toughness, the hard work and the discipline that it takes to be good,” he said. “The talent level has risen, especially in the front seven on both sides of the ball. And just learning how to win is such a big deal and our guys now understand that.”

Contact Greg Madia at 574-6296 or gmadia@dnronline.com

Follow Greg on Twitter: @Madia_DNRSports

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