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.
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- 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.