Ohio State has landed an elite defensive prospect as 5-star linebacker Justin Hilliard has announced his commitment to the Buckeyes, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:
A 6'2" and 230-pound force out of St. Xavier in Cincinnati, Ohio, Hilliard was one of the most sought-after recruits of the 2015 class as the No. 2 outside linebacker in the nation and No. 1 overall recruit from the state of Ohio, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.
Hilliard has the look of the next big thing at linebacker—and even hails from the same high school as Carolina's Luke Kuechly—so it would explain why has was recruited by the biggest programs in the nation, including Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan, to name a few.
He released his full top 10 at the end of March, sparking plenty of debate as to which school he would ultimately select:
Hilliard must be considered the crown jewel of Ohio State's recruiting class. There's not much he can't do on the field already, as he can act as a sideline-to-sideline enforcer, drop into coverage and pin his ears back and blitz in passing situations.
ESPN Insider's bottom line speaks for itself (subscription required):
Hilliard is the complete package at the linebacker position. He can fill inside, chase down plays to the sideline and rush the passer. Can still work on his coverage skills and flexibility in space but it's hard to find many physical flaws with this guy.
At this point, it's a simple matter of maturation for Hilliard, as his frame can clearly support the necessary 20-25 pounds of additional muscle required to excel at the next level and beyond.
He grades out highly in several skill categories. Ranging from scores of one to 10, 247Sports rates Hilliard as a nine in pursuit and an eight in athleticism, tackling, playing in space, reactive quickness and instincts. Those abilities paired with his physical traits make him a strong candidate to make a smooth transition to the college game.
Hilliard has all the makings of the next great linebacker because of his knowledge and feel for the game combined with his play-making ability. There's little doubt he'll be a difference maker for Ohio State sooner rather than later.