Pros and Cons to 5-Star LB Justin Hilliard's Top Schools
Justin Hilliard is a 5-star linebacker from Cincinnati who is among the nation's top defensive recruits. At 6'2" and 230 pounds, Hilliard combines solid strength with athleticism, awareness and quickness.
He does a good job of quickly reading his keys before attacking the line of scrimmage to fill alleys. The Ohio native's skill set has caught the attention of many of the nation's top programs.
However, he is down to five final schools, according to Josh Helmholdt of Rivals.com (subscription required). Hilliard will have to weigh the pros and cons of each of his finalists before settling on one.
All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.
The biggest thing Iowa has going for itself with Hilliard is the fact that his brother, C.J., signed with the Hawkeyes in 2014, per Josh Helmholdt of Rivals.com (subscription required).
Iowa is also coached by Kirk Ferentz, who is one of the most respected coaches in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes are a blue-collar program, and Hilliard would likely get to play immediately as a true freshman.
Ferentz is just 12-13 over his last two seasons, per Sports-Reference.com. Iowa is not a flashy program, nor is it in the national spotlight very often.
Hilliard would not be surrounded with the type of talent he potentially would at other schools on his list.
Michigan is one of the flagship programs in college football. Hilliard would go to a place surrounded by tradition and a rich history of winning.
He'd be coached by defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. Plus, head coach Brady Hoke also knows how to develop defensive players. The Wolverines have good young talent up and down their roster, and they are supported by a national collection of fans.
Academics and facilities are also above average in Ann Arbor.
It's not a guarantee that Hilliard would see significant time early at Michigan.
Plus, Hoke could be feeling some pressure after going 15-11 over the past two seasons, per Sports-Reference.com.
There may be no program with more mystique and better tradition than Notre Dame. Head coach Brian Kelly has rebuilt the program into a prominent power, and it is always in the national spotlight.
Notre Dame is also one of the better academic schools among college football powerhouses, and the facilities are great. Kelly has added a wealth of talent to the roster in South Bend, and he figures to win a lot of games going forward.
Hilliard will have to keenly study the 3-4 defense operated by the Irish, as he must see if his skill set fits the scheme. Also, the weather in South Bend isn't always ideal.
Hilliard told the following to Josh Helmholdt of Rivals.com (subscription required) on May 23:
I went [to Notre Dame] a month and a half ago and that was my fourth or fifth visit up there. I have seen probably everything I could see, but it was good getting both my parents up there to visit. I have a great relationship with Coach [Brian] Kelly and also Coach [Brian] VanGorder, who came over from the New York Jets.
Head coach Urban Meyer has only lost two games since taking over at Ohio State in 2012, per Sports-Reference.com. The Buckeyes are loaded with excellent talent on both sides of the ball, and Hilliard would win a ton of games.
Ohio State has terrific fans. Plus, the facilities are not shabby at all. The program spends a good amount of time in the national spotlight, and it has a lot of tradition and history. Hilliard would also be able to stay somewhat close to home.
Meyer has done a terrific job of recruiting linebackers over the past few years, so it would be a challenge for Hilliard to see significant time early.
Alabama has won three national titles under head coach Nick Saban, and it is regarded by many as the premier program in college football today. Future NFL players are all over the Crimson Tide's roster, and the program boasts an intense collection of fans.
'Bama's facilities are exceptional, and it is usually involved in a large amount of the biggest games of the college football season. Hilliard would be joining a winning program that is operated like an NFL organization.
Like with Notre Dame, Hilliard needs to make sure he'd be a good fit in Alabama's 3-4 defense. The demanding environment and culture in Tuscaloosa isn't for everyone.