Elite linebacker recruit Justin Hilliard has trimmed dozens of collegiate opportunities down to five finalists.
The 5-star Cincinnati standout shared a list of the last teams standing via Twitter on Friday morning:
His options are down to Alabama, Iowa, Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State, setting the stage for an intriguing final stretch toward a decision. Florida State, Penn State, USC and Michigan State are among the many programs that missed the cut.
Hilliard, a 6'2", 230-pound playmaker, is one of the premier 2015 defenders remaining on the market. He rates No. 2 nationally among outside linebackers in 247Sports' composite rankings.
Ohio State hosted him last week and has welcomed the coveted in-state recruit on campus several times. Hilliard spent time at Notre Dame and Alabama in April.
The St. Xavier High School standout emerged as a blue-chip prospect during his sophomore season, which featured 65 tackles and seven sacks. He took that production to another level in 2013, tallying 80 tackles.
Hilliard holds several SEC offers, but Alabama is the only squad left under consideration. St. Xavier head coach Steve Specht told AL.com reporter Drew Champlin the appeal makes sense.
"When every school in the country is recruiting you and he names the top five and Alabama is one of them, I'd say the interest is awful high," Specht said. "Alabama is Alabama. You can look around and see who has the most national championships over the past few years."
Ohio State also stands out among his final mix. Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes have been in hot pursuit of Hilliard since the early stages of his recruitment and view him as a crucial target within state borders.
Aside from Alabama and Notre Dame, Ohio State must also contend with Big Ten rivals Michigan and Iowa.
Hilliard is likely to challenge for immediate action when he arrives on a college campus next year. While we don't yet know where that will be, his freshly released list of finalists serves as an indication of which programs must step things up during the final stages of this whirlwind recruitment.
Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.