|Detroit, MI – 5'10", 172|
|Scout||4*, #97 overall
|Rivals||4*, #176 overall
#14 CB, #5 MI
|ESPN||4*, #278 overall
#21 CB, #7 MI
|24/7||4*, #88 overall
#6 CB, #2 MI
|Other Suitors||MSU, PSU, Tenn, Clemson, UGA, OSU, Texas, USC, UCLA|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Brother of Delano. Army AA. Also national DB of the year. Nicknamed "Ghost," which is a good nickname.|
Lavert Hill's recruitment ended the way you expect "younger brother of Michigan player" to end. Getting there was a bit odd. Hill fired off an early commitment to Penn State, but by the time last year's football season rolled around he was on Michigan's campus weekly and regarded as the biggest lock on the board… without actually decommitting. When he finally made the obvious official by declaring himself a free agent, Hill still managed to be the indirect cause of a ton of finger-pointing when Penn State brought him on the ice during a hockey game. For dessert there was a late, apparently unwarranted surge of optimism from Michigan State. (At his Signing Day announcement, his brother admitted he knew what the pick was for a "couple weeks.") Hill had a high-drama no-drama recruitment.
But all that's in the rear-view mirror now. Michigan did indeed acquire Delano Hill's younger brother, and in doing so they hope to set themselves up with a younger version of a guy currently on the roster: Jourdan Lewis. Former DB coach Greg Jackson's YMRMFSPA is also Jourdan Lewis, for one. The similarities are many, to the point where scouting reports could be about either guy. Scout's profile evaluation is a good example:
Has a natural knack for reading and jumping routes. Good, quick feet and ability to change directions. Technically sound and smooth in his backpedal and transition. Has the closing speed to makeup ground and break on passes. Must add size and strength. Solid wrap-up tackler, but must get stronger to improve in this area.
Or 247's take from the Army game:
…lockdown corner with elite feet, great speed and quicks. He competed on every rep giving the quarterback no option on his side of the field.
"Hill is a lockdown cover corner who has shown he can check the top wide receivers in the country," Helmholdt said. "He has a fluid turn, good top-end speed and an outstanding break on the football." … "The one thing he will have to work on when he gets to college is he tends to get a little handsy."
Or Sam Webb, also at the Army game:
…excellent press corner. … great speed, terrific hips, and cat-like quickness. All of those things aid him in sticking with receivers when he lines up in their faces. But he didn’t look as instinctive when playing off. I thought he lined up too far off the ball Monday, giving receivers too much freedom to get into their routes. He was much more aggressive and physical Tuesday and did a much better job of throwing off the QB-to-WR timing.
…Flashes very good recovery speed in the short-area and longer makeup speed if caught out of position vertically. … Smart, savvy and aware on the perimeter. Understands zone concepts and does a really good job reading the quarterback and feeling routes develop. … Shows good press-man technique jamming receivers with his length and retaining inside leverage . Will turn and run showing good speed and fluid hip turns. Mirrors with sharp footwork and balance; closes separation quickly out of breaks to undercut routes.
The scouting reports continue, and continue, and continue in this vein. Dude seemingly went to every camp out there for years, killing it at most of them. "In terms of instincts and man to man cover skills, you won't find many in the 2016 class better than LaVert Hill"; "fantastic as usual"; "won MVP at NIKE's The Opening regional with dazzling one-handed interceptions and lockdown cover skills." Etc.
Hill's speed is a major plus, with a 4.41 electronic 40 and a 4.10 shuttle at an Opening regional. He's not the biggest guy but has the ability to stay in anyone's back pocket; once there his timing and vertical allows him to make plays against strapping wideouts. Kind of like… yep. Even the drawbacks remind you of Lewis, who is at his best in press man and spent much of last year successfully toeing the line between legit coverage and interference.
Former Cass Tech coach Jermain Crowell directly compared the two when Hill committed:
“Vert is more athletic than JD [ed: Lewis's nickname]. He’s faster than JD with them being the same age coming out of high school. His vertical is better. But JD has always had that edge, he doesn’t care who you are, he’s coming at you. JD will line up against a seventh grader and treat him like he’s the best receiver in college.
“Lavert might not necessarily do that. He rises to the challenge. He wants to go against the best of the best to prove himself. You have to be more consistent. Once his consistency gets there he’s going to be unreal.”
Let's explore that latter bit, the main drawback people mention about Hill. He got beat with some frequency in high school. When Ace caught him at the beginning of his junior year, he was very up and down:
Hill had an up-and-down day, giving up a long touchdown when he got beat on a post route and compounded his error by diving for a pick, then bouncing back to make a couple very nice plays on the ball—he got hit with three pass interference calls on the night, but I thought two of them were highly questionable.
Cass played him off a lot, and Ace also noticed that he was often uncomfortable doing so. 247 took in the same game and came away with the same take: physically capable but beat too often, like Vernon Hargreaves against Jehu Chesson.
Touch The Banner mentions in its evaluation that his high school production was often called into question and that he made his name largely on camps. That appears to be a criticism Hill is leaving behind, however, as his senior year was extremely productive. King assistant Terel Patrick told Steve Lorenz that Hill developed a great deal from when Ace saw him above to a 12-interception(!), 24-PBU(!) senior season that ended in a state championship:
“His eyes are extremely disciplined from when you look earlier in high career. The athleticism has always been there, the playmaking ability has always been there, but honing in on the small things and working his craft and the eye discipline, and ability to stay locked in all four quarters is the biggest change I’ve seen in Lavert’s game from the start of his high school career to end of his high school career.”
Ace relates that Hill gives up long plays whenever he sees him play but that they were greatly reduced in frequency as a senior. Hill is no doubt still working towards the ideal here, but the trajectory of improvement is encouraging. Some struggles early are natural.
A second problem area is run defense. Per Ace, Hill "isn't much of a form tackler," and that's something ESPN mentioned in their evaluation:
Not a physical edge setter versus the run but will come quickly and make the low cut tackle. As a productive zone defender, he will need to continue physically develop to remain effective in those schemes at the college level.
Crappy tackling is to high school cornerbacks what pad level is to high school linemen, so it's not a death knell or anything. Hill's size and lack of experience in that phase of the game could be a hindrance to his playing time, especially in a Don Brown defense. Last year Michigan's corners were rarely—almost never—involved in run D; that will not be the case going forward.
Both of these drawbacks are fixable. Hill has already gone some way towards fixing the former. In contrast to David Long, the apprentice year Michigan can provide him is more necessity than luxury. Both guys have similar upsides and enticing futures.
He brings those intangibles that you can’t teach: instincts, quickness, transition in and out of breaks and reaction skills.
I will die fighting on this hill. Favorite phrase is "pretty good."
Why Jourdan Lewis? See above. This entire post is "why Lavert Hill is a lot like Jourdan Lewis." FWIW, Hill's rankings are eerily similar to Lewis's.
Guru Reliability: High. Only thing that keeps it from "exacting" is a sizeable split in the rankings. It's not a massive difference, though. Hill was at the Army game and the Opening amongst a ton of other camps and has been on the radar for years.
Variance: Moderate. There's always a little worry that a player Hill's size will find the college transition difficult, and he has work to do.
Ceiling: High. See also: Jourdan Lewis.
General Excitement Level: High. Sounds like a guy who would be up and down as a freshman and hopefully hit it big going forward. I do wonder if Don Brown's zone stuff and emphasis on run support from the corners might be a less than ideal fit for Hill (and Lewis), especially early on. I'll take it if it means Michigan can actually defend spread-to-run teams, especially You Know, That One.
Projection: Broken record time: Hill will play this year in preparation for a starting role in 2017. He's not likely to beat out the three seniors at corner; along with David Long he is a favorite to start as a true sophomore the year after. Hill does seem like less of a sure thing than Long, but I'll be surprised if anyone on the roster can displace him for a two or three year starting stint.