Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton,DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler, OL David Dawson, OLLogan Tuley-Tillman, OL Kyle Bosch, OL Chris Fox, OL Dan Samuelson, TE Jake Butt.
|Detroit, MI – 6'2", 235
||3*, NR overall
||3*, NR overall
#32 TE, #21 MI
||3*, NR overall
#8 H-back, #9 MI
||3*, NR overall
#31 TE, #14 MI
|Previously On MGoBlog
||Hello post from Ace. Ace scouts East Village.
||Transferred from Crockett to East Village Prep, FWIW.
Recommend the John Woo-approved touchdown at 20 seconds. Also, Scout's Josh Newkirk put together a reel of his performances at one 7-on-7 tourney that's impressive both for its length and some of the catches Hill brings in:
We're in the thick of this year's crop of hybridized, NFL-style versatile offensive players. You know, the guys that will let Michigan crank you from a big formation on one play and flip to a four-wide the next with limited personnel switching. Khalid Hill will live in the heavier end of Michigan's formations, moving to and fro across the line of scrimmage, blocking and heading out into pass patterns. SB Nation has an excellent primer on Hill's job description I recommend you take in all of, but the short version from the man who kind of invented the spot himself:
This takes you back to [former Redskins Coach Joe] Gibbs' description of the modern H-back: "An H-back has to have good hands and be super smart."
Bonus items include bone-shattering blocking (taken for granted at the NFL level, I imagine) and the ability to get vertical from time to time; Hill hits on at least a few of these categories. According his coach, he has them all…
"He's a great pass catcher. He has the blocking ability of a lineman, the athletic ability of a skill guy, and the hands of a wide receiver, so he's a match-up nightmare. What he brought to the table for us this year was, he created mismatches down seams of the field."
…but coaches tend to get excited about their kids. To the scouts!
The one he's definitely got: hands. Virtually every report I've collected praises them first off. 247's Clint Brewster:
The first thing that really jumps off the tape about Hill is his catching radius. He can scoop a pass up off of his shoelaces or go up and make a tough catch well over his head. Hill also has good arm extension when making a catch, not allowing the ball to get close to his body. Hill is quarterback friendly and really makes an inaccurate pass look easy to catch with his natural adjustments. After the catch Hill shows an excellent burst of speed and can really make a bigger defender miss a tackle or plow over a smaller one. Hill does a great job of getting vertical on seam routes when lined up in the slot or attached at the line of scrimmage. Hill runs precise routes, really getting good separation from his opponent with sharp cuts and head nods.
Regardless of how he lines up he can help move the chains as a receiver. He has good hands and demonstrates that he can consistently extend for the ball. … good quickness and is active with his hands in working to clear past defenders who may try and hinder his release. He is a solid route runner best suited as a short-to-intermediate target. He has solid speed, but comes across as a kid who is a little quicker than fast and doesn't look to possess the ideal long speed to be a vertical threat. After the catch he will quickly get turned up-field and fight for what he can get.
You'll note an almost total lack of blocking notes in both evaluations above, and that's for a reason: ESPN says that's an area that "could use some real development."
But back to the receiving. Ace took in East Village Prep's opener, in which Hill went for a 65-yard TD, and reported back:
Hill's first catch of the season was a slant route that he took 65 yards for a touchdown; the throw was slightly behind him, but he reached back and plucked the ball out of the air without breaking stride, then turned on the burners and outran the entire Oak Park secondary. It was a very impressive effort that showed off Hill's potential as a receiver.
Hill looked very comfortable working over the middle, whether he lined up at tight end, H-back, slot, or wide receiver; he's at his best finding open space in the heart of the defense. His hands look good as well, as he caught everything thrown his way, making sure to catch with his hands instead of his body. When running routes, Hill showed why he earned a Michigan offer.
That is a piece of skill Michigan fans have recently seen out of Drew Dileo in a guy 50 pounds heavier and a half-foot taller: a rare quality. But back to the blocking issues.
However, Hill ran into problems when asked to run block. He had a difficult time staying engaged with defenders and knocking them off the ball; on several occasions, he never found someone to block at all.
Is it good news that Hill was such a valuable receiver as a high school player that his blocking can lack so badly? Well… maybe. In hybrid land a lot of these guys get picked for the one skill they have because coaches think they can fix the other bit. As we learned with Funchess last year, though, a mismatch guy is only a mismatch if he can block.
Once Hill can do that, though, he has potential to "surprise" defenses. Another recurring theme in the evaluations is continued references to his surprising—always surprising—athleticism. Scout's eval:
Scout.com Player Evaluation:
Hands and Concentration
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Stocky kid with surprising quickness and athleticism for his build. Very light on his feet, has great route running skills and ability to catch the ball as a tight end or H-Back. Soft, reliable hands and good run after the catch schools. Will have to learn to block potentially from the backfield as he may see time there in college. Not your traditional tight end at 6'2, but has the skills to be a matchup problem. - Allen Trieu
The ever-popular "size" area for improvement and more references to his developing blocking skills feature.
Tim Sullivan caught him at a 7-on-7 event:
He looks like a defensive lineman … but has quickness and speed that are bound to surprise those who think he's just a big man playing tight end, rather than a true athlete. He isn't going to run by many safeties, but makes quick, sharp cuts to get open in the middle of the field, or toward the sidelines as an outlet on some plays. He has the frame and leaping ability to make high catches over the middle - and the fearlessness to jump and make plays with his body exposed.
Hill presented a serious matchup problem for defensive backs unaccustomed to handling a player with his combination of size and athleticism. Hill runs crisp routes and has soft hands, so while he doesn't wow you with his frame or speed, he finds a way to get open and has developed a great rapport with his future college quarterback.
You get the idea. Let's continue attacking the horse, though:
Hill camped as a junior, which got him on Michigan's radar. He won the positional MVP there, no doubt a help as Michigan evaluated him for their early offer. It didn't hurt that Hill and Shane Morris rolled around the 7-on-7 circuit on the same team, as Ace mentions obliquely above. Morris developed faith in Hill to the point that you can get a 3 and a half minute highlight reel out of one 7-on-7, as you see above, while other guys on the Max Ex team (like C'sonte York) can only squeeze out a minute and a half by adding some practice reps in.
As a senior, Hill may have added some blocking skill after a shoulder injury forced an interesting, temporary position move:
“Two weeks ago the A-C joint in my shoulder got sprained in a game and I couldn’t do anything but block, that’s the only thing that didn’t hurt,” Hill began. “So I told my coach to put someone else at tight end and I’ll play offensive tackle. Same thing happened last year when I hurt my knee- I moved to tackle. I just want to be on the field to help my team in any way possible. It’s all about the team.”
(File under The Pattern as well.)
Sullivan caught one of his later games and focused on his blocking, which was much-improved in his eyes:
[Hill] was far more aggressive and willing to punish defenders in this game, and played a big role in opening up holes. He also used his hands to prevent the defender from disengaging, which allowed him to seal the edge.
Hill still shows a tendency to get off balance at times in his blocking, especially on the edge. While it's unlikely to harm the team in any significant way, that can limit big runs if they break into the secondary. On a similar note, he was beaten in space a couple times, but given his athleticism, that should be an easy fix to make.
He still had issues making second-level blocks after coming off combos, FWIW, something Ace noticed when he scouted East Village as well.
So… Hill has some developing to do as a blocker, especially because most of his activity is going to be of the lead variety from now on, something he hasn't done much of yet. That'll delay his bid for playing time; once he gets that down he has the potential to be a guy linebackers swear to themselves about when they try to take a block and he flits by. Hill has the potential to be a premium piece of the offense when space gets constricted.
Etc.: Junior stats: 29 catches for 448 yards, six TDs. Lingo ahoy!
"I feel great," he said. "There's a smile on my face. I'm cheesin'."
That's immediately post-commit.
Why Phillip Lutzenkirchen? Auburn's red-zone touchdown machine is the best I've got on the college level. Lutzenkirchen spent his days on the Plains blocking on short yardage and slipping out into uncovered pattern after uncovered pattern. His catching ability was superb for a guy his size and he brought enough wood as a blocker to convince AU opponents to sell out against the run, much to their detriment.
Lutzenkirchen is in the same height range but did top out at nearly 260 pounds; Hill may end up ten pounds short of that.
Guru Reliability: High. Lots of camps, and while there's a little divide in the rankings (Scout has him just a few players away from a fourth star; Rivals ranks him below an in-state tight end headed to Air Force) everyone says he's the same player.
Variance: Moderate. Will be a blocking back and guy who catches some short stuff, occasionally getting into a wheel route; blocking must develop.
Ceiling: Low-plus. While Hill can be a useful cog, that seems to be the limit. Does bring some potential as a consistent mismatch if he can learn to block, though.
General Excitement Level: Low-plus. Is kind of a fullback, and how many kind-of-fullbacks are going to be on this roster? On the other hand, seems like a red-zone efficiency piece, and who doesn't like red-zone efficiency?
Projection: Probable redshirt since most of the evals mention he has a long way to go as a blocker. He does fit the profile of a guy who will get time on special teams sooner rather than later, though, so nonzero chance he ends up covering kicks. A serious role in the offense will have to wait.
How long is a mystery. He's got Sione Houma and Joe Kerridge in front of him in terms of seniority, and Kerridge got a lot of playing time in which he showed some promise as a Kevin Dudley-style linebacker eraser… as a redshirt freshman. It'll be a battle for Hill to pass him full-time.
Situationally… yeah, there's room, especially after Gardner graduates and Shane Morris presumably ascends to the throne. A couple years down the road Hill will presumably be accustomed to blocking out of the backfield and his 7-on-7 running buddy will be looking for him in practice whenever they're on the field together.