Film Breakdown: Justin Hilliard

Posted on Posted in Michigan Football, Recruiting

Arguably one of the more coveted pieces of the 2015 recruiting class is OLB Justin Hilliard out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Rated a 5* recruit and often labeled as an “elite” recruit, Hilliard would be a crucial addition to a Michigan defense who have been coveting linebackers as of late.

Hilliard currently holds a whopping 36 offers from schools all across the country. But, it will be difficult to lure him away from the Midwest. Iowa, who presumably holds a slight edge for his services, is aided by having Justin’s brother CJ (RB) on the team.

What exactly makes Hilliard an elite linebacker? I break down his junior highlight tape after the jump.

Photo Credit: 247Sports

After reviewing the tape, a few things stood out to me that makes Hilliard a can’t miss prospect:

  • Speed: Right off the bat you can see Hilliard’s speed through the line. He has the ability to shed blocks and carve up offensive lines to cause disruptions in the backfield. This skill will be particularly important to Michigan because their defense gives their linebackers freedom to blitz. This is where Hilliard could shine with Michigan.
  • Play Recognition: Hilliard has a fantastic ability to sniff out plays and either tackle ball carriers for loss or at least cause a disruption. He seems to be the type of player who always finds himself around the ball and is either making a play or at least helping a teammate out.
  • Hard Hitter: When he hits you, you’re going to feel it. His highlight tape shows a few bonecrushing sacks on the opposition (especially the quarterback.) Not only does he hit hard, but he has excellent form. Wrapping up his tackles and punishing the ball carrier.
  • Strength: It’s obvious from the tape that Hilliard has excellent body strength. The way he easily bounces off offensive lineman and potential blockers is a sight to see. This also goes hand-in-hand with being a hard hitter, but you’ll be hard pressed seeing a ball carrier break free from his grasp. This should translate well to the next level.
  • Swim Moves: Hilliard uses swim moves extremely effectively for a linebacker. He is quick and shifty which allows him to shove his blocker out of the way using his hands or a simple spin move. Add that with a great burst of speed and he will be a nuisance in the backfield.
This is only scratching the surface with what Hilliard is capable of. Sitting at 225 lbs, he still has plenty of room to grow to add even more muscle and strength to his frame.

Does he live up to the 5* hype?

He absolutely does. When they say that he is a “can’t miss” type of recruit, I believe every word of it. Adding Hilliard to Michigan’s 2015 class should be a huge priority and should be considered a major disappointment if they miss on him.

What are Michigan’s chances?

Tough to say right now, but I believe they have as good of a shot as any. As I said previously, Iowa is a team to look out for in this race. Having his brother on campus may or may not persuade Hilliard to go to the Hawkeyes, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. However, I still feel like Michigan will be in it right until the end in this one.

Derek Devine
Institutional voice of Alma College during the day, Michigan fanatic at night. Taking TBHR to the next level one post at a time.