Daxton Hill
[Isaiah Hole]

[This article was originally posted in September. Only the first paragraph has been updated]

Daxton Hill has a knack for pulling Michigan out of the BPONE. His original commitment to Michigan on September 18 marked the official end of the Moribund Recruiting Period that started about a year before it. Hill helped put us back there with a suddenly announced a flip to Alabama on December 8. That flip, according to Sam Webb,truly only lasted a few days, and Hill made it public when he signed his letter of intent with Michigan today.

While Michigan had been digging out since February by putting together a top 15 class, a lot of that was based on smart scouting and getting in on early on guys who would end up rising up the ranks. Hill is another beast entirely: the consensus top safety in the country and top target for everyone including Alabama. Hill is a capital-G Get and a payoff for Michigan getting a couple of young up-and-comers on the staff. Sherrone Moore is Hill's primary recruiter.

Let's see what Michigan's won.

GURU RANKINGS

Rivals ESPN 24/7 Composite
5*, #24 overall
#1 S, #1 OK
4*, #13 overall
#1 S, #1 OK
5*, #7 overall
#1 S, #1 OK
5*, #8 overall
#1 S, #1 OK, #212 all-time

As noted, Hill is the consensus top safety prospect in the country. The only wobbles are ESPN's exceedingly stingy five-star distribution (just 11) and Rivals being slightly less enthralled than the other two services.

SCOUTING

Usually when you're talking about a safety in such rarified air it's because he is an absurd athlete. Check:

Per ESPN his 40, vert, and overall SPARQ score are the best for anyone they rank as an ATH and his overall score is second in the nation behind only GA LB Owen Pappoe.

That comes through on his film, which shows him playing as a deep safety, outside corner, and nickelback. It is generally violent and features a number of impossible-seeming run-downs. More immediately relevant for Michigan fans are a number of episodes of slot coverage on which Hill looks extremely comfortable.

I'd recommend you actually watch that tape because Hill's athleticism is obvious to anyone. It is the primary thing anyone brings up in scouting reports. 24/7 after the Opening:

"...safety size but is one of the fastest players in the country ... with his ability to run and cover, he looks like a college player right now. He has a freakish combination of size and athleticism" Also: "looked like more than just an athlete though, he showed a ton of range in coverage and was smooth in his backpedal."

Steve Wiltfong:

Between the off-the-charts athleticism, high IQ and playmaking ability between the chalk, the 6-foot 1/2, 187-pound Hill is exactly how you draw it up as the last line of defense in the secondary. When he’s around the ball, you can bet the Tulsa (Okla.) Booker T. Washington standout is going to make a play on it.

Also:

...he's clearly moving at a different speed than his peers. He excels in coverage, breaking quickly when the ball is in his region and turns into a receiver when he can make a play. The change of direction quickness is off the charts.

Rivals, for its part, praises him for being a "complete prospect" because he "has elite speed, covers like a cornerback, and hits like a safety" and says he "combines excellent speed with tremendous ball skills and tackling ability." ESPN has a brief underclass evaluation:

Explosive athlete ... pursues fast without much wasted motion and is very active around the ball in both run and pass support. Shows good pop on contact as a tackler...very gifted.

Texas's 24/7 site did a film rundown of their main safety targets that gets into a bit more detail about Hill's multi-purpose abilities:

...tremendous build with good bulk and room to add weight ... elite burst and speed. He shows the ability to play deep at safety and cover receivers in the slot. Hill shows good movement ability with strong explosion in and out of his breaks. Hill plays with good coverage technique and smooth transitional ability. He comes downhill and hits like a sledgehammer and shows strong change of direction skills. ... has the overall package to play deep, in the nickel or in the box at the next level.

...can play with an over-aggressive tempo which can cause him to overrun plays at times. He should also work on being more consistent with his tackling technique ...inconsistent hands.

They also provided the lone note of caution after something called "PRIME 21":

Hill definitely had his moments as he displayed phenomenal closing speed and a great football IQ. But he was a little inconsistent in 1-on-1's, which is probably due to the fact that he's a pure safety.

I talked to Sam Webb about him a bit after the WTKA show one week; the main takeaway was that the Bama program believed he was the best safety Saban had pursued in his time there. Webb cautioned that one seemingly major advantage for Michigan, the possibility of early playing time, wasn't actually much of a factor because Hill was Just That Good. "Rats," I thought at the time. Now: giggity.

The comparables mentioned by sites and coaching staffs are what you'd expect for this level of prospect. Hill told the 24/7 site that their staff was comparing him to multi-purpose DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, another 6-foot-ish safety capable of playing CB if necessary. Fitzpatrick was the 11th pick of the most recent draft. Rivals's Mike Farrell brought up FSU safety Jalen Ramsey:

"He’s a freak athlete. ...could play corner at the next level with his ability or be that Jalen Ramsey type who starts at safety and moves to corner and works at nickel. ... He has so much speed and so much talent, a super-explosive kid. He has make-up speed, closes on the football really well, plays against the run and runs things down as well."

The obvious Michigan comparable is Jabrill Peppers, but Brandon Brown notes that they're different players:

Peppers was listed at 6-1 and was the No. 1 cornerback in the country but it became clear during his Michigan career that he was much shorter than that and far better suited to play near the line of scrimmage. Hill is definitely more of a safety because of his length and ranginess and is actually north of 6-feet. Even when you watch them on tape you can see that Peppers is more suited for contact and run support, where Hill is much more of a lengthy ballhawk in the deep secondary.

Hill is a true safety with a height that is slightly over 6-foot, and not a 5'10" explosion machine on the edge.

[After THE JUMP: highlights you should actually watch]

Cornelius Johnson hauls in a touchdown
Michigan's best shot at a signing day splash appears to be with CT WR Cornelius Johnson [Andrew Ivins/247Sports]

Welcome to the second annual early signing day, which is basically early Christmas for recruitniks and the day most likely to be celebrated by both those overflowing with optimism about the promise of the future and those who view the commitment of anything less than a five-star as a treatise on the state of the program. If you’re the kind of person who follows recruiting tangentially you can expect some suspense today, but it’s clustered around very few players. In case you’re looking for a primer, Michigan’s 2019 class is currently #9 nationally and #1 in the Big Ten with an average player rating of 0.90 per the 247 composite. Michigan expects 24 of its 25 verbal commits to sign and email in their letters of intent today according to 247’s Steve Lorenz, with the lone February signee slated to be KS ATH Amauri Pesek-Hickson. That leaves two suspense-generating commitments to wait on, and one that seemed to be going Michigan’s way until early yesterday morning.

On that note, things don’t look great for Michigan with regard to the nation's #4 overall player, OH DE Zach Harrison. The deluge of crystal ball flips started yesterday morning around 7:30 with Sam Webb and continued throughout the day. Webb said on the radio last week that he wasn’t going to flip until he had solid intel and to keep an eye on his crystal ball; five crystal balls flipped in an hour, and with those Michigan’s chances clearly flat-lined. It’s been well publicized that the outcome of The Game had an adverse impact on his recruitment, and it seems that Michigan’s multiple visits to try and assuage any fears weren’t enough to yank him out of Ohio State’s orbit. And it’s that part, that proximity and pull toward Ohio State, that appears to be too much for Michigan to overcome. 247’s Steve Lorenz posted his final thoughts heading into today and said that the rumblings about Michigan falling to third and this turning into a decision between Ohio State and Penn State illustrates how serious the people around Harrison were about him not going to Michigan. Lorenz went on to say that the biggest factors in Harrison not committing to Michigan are the people close to him who have his ear and Urban Meyer resigning. Harrison was reportedly not Meyer’s biggest fan, and Ryan Day getting the head job bolstered the Buckeyes’ chances. Lorenz said Michigan fans have a right to feel a little snakebitten at that particular development, which, yeah.

Moving to a recruitment that should jumpstart a second volume of Road to Ann Arbor for Tom VH should he flip (again), Michigan seems to be back in the battle for five-star OK S Daxton Hill. Multiple reports cite Alabama planting a seed of doubt in Hill’s mind that the current coaching staff would remain in Ann Arbor for long, with the poorly-timed Don Brown interview at Temple and the ever present Harbaugh-to-the-NFL rumors giving their staff the leverage they were looking for to flip Hill unexpectedly. It’s no surprise in light of this that Harbaugh went to ESPN’s Adam Schefter the next day to let people know that he was not leaving Michigan, calling the rumors a “choreographed message” that emerges every year before signing day. With Don Brown also staying, Michigan’s staff worked hard to erase any personnel doubts Hill had, and there was a surge of optimism that Hill would flip back to Michigan. That still appears to be a possibility, but a complication has emerged and somehow Ohio State’s involved in this one, too.

According to WolverinesWire’s Isaiah Hole, the commitment to watch today in relation to Hill's recruitment is that of FL S Jordan Battle. Though technically a Buckeye commit until this morning, it’s been expected for some time that he would flip his commitment to Alabama. Hole on the situation:

The word is, Hill is not looking to be a part of a class that has three safeties. So, in short, watch what happens with Battle and Alabama on Wednesday. Should he sign a letter of intent before Hill to end up in Tuscaloosa, there’s a strong indication that Hill could be back in the fold in Ann Arbor.

Hole goes on to write that the staff feels optimistic about flipping Hill back regardless of what happens with Battle, but it certainly seems that Battle signing before Hill would significantly bolster Michigan’s odds. The Wolverine’s Chris Balas reports that Alabama’s staff didn’t expect Hill to sign today as recently as this weekend, though they’re pushing hard to get him to do so. Balas says those close to Hill’s recruitment expect it to continue into January, so for today, keep an eye on Jordan Battle.

[The good news is after THE JUMP]

[247]

Anthony Solomon was rumored to be a flip candidate a few weeks back; then he set up a visit and the flip became fait accompli. I am now rooting for more Miami decommits, not necessarily to Michigan but anywhere, just because this business is amazing:

Ahead of this week’s Early Signing Period, when most teams sign most of their eventual new freshmen, the Miami Hurricanes have 14 verbal commitments. Their class is No. 34 nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite, which gives it 197 rating points.

On another hand, Miami has 15 decommits who were at one point or another pledged to play for the Canes but have since, for any number of reasons, backed away. Those players, together, would make for a class with 203 rating points. They’d be the No. 32 class, as of Sunday night, a couple of notches ahead of Miami’s actual class.

That decommit class does not count the guy who decommitted and then re-upped three days later. Because that's a thing we have to clarify when it comes to Miami recruiting.

Anyway: Solomon was reputed to be a big Michigan lean after an odyssey of an unofficial visit over the summer but pulled the trigger on a Miami commitment for reasons; Michigan never let up and eventually closed.

GURU RANKINGS

Rivals ESPN 24/7 Composite
4*, NR overall
#16 OLB, #39 FL
4*, #83 overall
#8 OLB, #13 FL
3*, #402 overall
#23 OLB, #41 FL
4*, #193 overall
#10 OLB, #28 FL

A sub-200 pound linebacker is bound to be polarizing and lo, Solomon is polarizing. ESPN has him a top 100 prospect; 24/7 has him in 3.5* range.

[After THE JUMP: viper]

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