Daxton Hill
[Isaiah Hole]

Hello Again: Daxton Hill Comment Count

Brian December 19th, 2018 at 8:55 AM

[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 on September 18 marked the official end of the Moribund Recruiting Period that started about a year before it. Then Hill helped put Michigan back it the pit a few weeks ago when he suddenly announced a flip to Alabama. That decision, according to Sam Webb, truly only lasted a few days, and Hill made his recommitment to Michigan both public and permanent by signing his letter of intent this morning.

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.


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.


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.


...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]


Everybody. Hill's final six, FWIW, was Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Clemson, and Ohio State.


As you might imagine, Booker T Washington High School in Tulsa doesn't toss a ton of prospects Michigan's way. The last Oklahoman Michigan recruited was Woody Hankins in 1992.


Self-reported junior stats: 71 tackles, 11 PBUs, 5 INTs, 4 TD.


Hill has a verified 4.3 40 from an Opening regional. Zero fakes.


After much consideration, this site has taken the "cheetah in a porsche strapped to a jet engine and dropped out of a plane" tag out of its post-Denard mothballs.


Hill is the kind of prospect who could walk right into Tyree Kinnel's spot next year. To do so he'll have to pass Jaylen Kelly-Powell, J'Marick Woods, and Brad Hawkins plus whichever guys in the 2018 class end up at S. Enrolling early, which he plans to do, gives him a decent shot to do so. It'll be about how quickly Hill can pick up the defense. 3.9 GPA says he's got a good shot.

If it doesn't happen as a freshman he'll have another shot when Josh Metellus graduates the next year and at that point he'll be the heavy favorite, possibly for a Peppers-like two-and-out starting career, except a little deeper.

Hill's deployment will be fascinating. Recent five-star-ish safety types include Ernest Shazor (uh), that one year Marlin Jackson played safety, and the few games Peppers was more of a boundary corner than a viper. A true three-phase S who is not an insane person out of position all the time would be a new thing. A safety who is not boring, and that's a good thing.


Hill is Michigan's 23rd commitment. Michigan has four open slots and 11 seniors so there's going to be a lot of attrition from the roster. Some of that is going to be NFL (Gary, Bush, possibly Hill, Long, Gentry, Hudson). Some of that's going to be firm handshakes for potential fourth-and-fifth year players who get a degree and want to grad transfer (names are rude but there are three or four fairly obvious candidates). That should get Michigan up to the point where a reasonable amount of natural attrition is able to fit the folks in the class on campus.

It doesn't leave a ton of room for additional commits. Michigan appears to be in the market for an outside WR and an OT and is otherwise in the business of grabbing whatever can't-turn-down prospects want in. TX S Lewis Cine is the only guy who Michigan seems to have high mutual interest with who Hill might affect. Cine told Steve Lorenz that it doesn't impact him. And maybe it shouldn't: Michigan runs a three-safety D and he's a potential viper. He'll be on campus this weekend; PSU and Georgia have the large majority of the crystal balls.


SirJack II

September 19th, 2018 at 12:32 PM ^

I don't follow recruiting that closely. Which guy in the photo is Hill? The guy on the right looks pretty sturdy, true, but I'm not gonna lie, I really hope it's the guy on the left. 

scanner blue

September 19th, 2018 at 4:53 PM ^

Guy on the right is Matt Dudek who should share a little bit of credit for getting these young athletes committed. I met him his second day on the job last summer and again this summer at the prospect camps. High energy guy who probably works 12 to 14 hour days and is always recruiting. Sam Webb raves about him. 


September 19th, 2018 at 12:45 PM ^

I can indeed, and what fun it is to do so!  Brown's good at getting the most from his players but he luuuurves rangy safeties who can blitz, cover, or drop back to deep center, all from the same depth.  Peppers could do that, and while over the long run it didn't result in eye-popping stats it allowed Brown to disguise what he was doing, making life hell for opposing OCs.


September 19th, 2018 at 12:40 PM ^

Even through the Hoke years our defenses were consistently good, so while Hill's recruitment was driven by Moore the consistent performance of Don Brown's units had to have played a factor.  At the very least, the defense has been among the best units in the country long enough that it makes for a relatively easy pitch.  Not that beating out Alabama is ever easy, but defense at least is where I feel we can recruit at parity with anyone.  Offense needs to show top recruits more before we'll see pickups like these.


September 19th, 2018 at 2:18 PM ^

But the overall point that the offense hasn't recruited any worse than the defense is probably true. In fact, it's probably the opposite.  We've recruited "better" per the rankings on offense than defense.  In the past four cycles, this is the number of top 250 recruits on each side of the ball:

2015: 2 top 250 guys on offense and 2 on defense.

2016: 6 top 250 guys on offense, just 3 on defense.

2017: 8 top 250 guys on offense, 8 on defense (counting James Hudson as offense)

2018:  2 on offense and 3 on defense

The problems on offense are not about an inability to attract top talent, per se, the problems are a combination of 1) offensive coaching (philosophy/playcalling/execution) 2) wrong mix of talent (too many TEs and RBs, too few OL) 3) development.



September 19th, 2018 at 2:30 PM ^

And for the star gazers, this class has been trending up for the past couple months.

2 5 stars.

12 of 23 commits are 4 or 5 stars which is big per the "Blue-Chip ratio."

For more info about that, there was an article on sbnation about the "Blue-Chip Ratio" and how something like the last 20-30 national title contenders all had more 4 or 5 stars signed in the previous four years than 3 and 2 stars.

Devastatingly simple: do you recruit more 4 and 5 stars than 3 and 2 stars?

In any given year there are about 10-15 teams for which the answer is yes.  Michigan is there this year thanks to those great 2016 and 2017 classes.

That we're there in 2019 so far with a couple really high end recruits means this class is looking very good.


September 19th, 2018 at 5:36 PM ^

No argument with the basic gist, common sense.  But I think it matters what sort of 3-stars you sign.  3-star fullbacks and kickers are presumed to be studs at their positions.  More to the point Harbaugh (and some others, including our hoops coach) have shown an ability and affinity for finding diamonds in the rough, players on the rise, etc. and turning them into legit players and often pros. 

Guys like K Hudson, Higdon, Perry, Paye, Metellus, Mason, McKeon, Eubanks, Gil, Spanellis, Uche, Dwomfour, Nordin and Bell all currently fit or look like they fit the profile.  It's hard to deny they were seriously under-rated as a group.  That's good recruiting too; it's not just getting the big fish.  Sure there are some misses like Ulizio and Mbem-Bosse, but overall our recent history with 3-stars has been pretty successful.

Maize and Blue…

September 20th, 2018 at 10:20 AM ^

Hudson  and Higdon were four stars to 247. The rest of the group has had limited success at best. Nordin was the #1 kicker in the country so I wouldn't include him in that group. Remember Kingston Davis, McDoom, Reuben Jones, Nate Johnson.  Can't deny the success they have had with the TE position, but we've been pretty hit and miss on three stars.  As for Bell, he hasn't done anything but has benefited from the lack of scholarship WRs otherwise he wouldn't be on the field.


September 20th, 2018 at 10:50 AM ^

Mason plays about a dozen snaps per game.  Nordin even fewer.  The reason the best kickers and FBs are three stars, tops, is that they have a very low marginal impact on the game even if they're really good. Similar with TEs although they can play more snaps and have a bigger impact, even though we haven't had an impact TE since Butt.  Maybe Gentry is finally getting there.

And yes, high three stars like K Hudson, Eubanks (who in year three barely sees the field still so no impact yet), Paye, etc are still top 500 guys.  They aren't exactly diamonds in the rough.  Of course you prefer high three stars to mid to low 3 stars.  But the general rule of thumb that if you have a lot of 4 stars, you probably are also picking up more high three stars than mid to low.


September 19th, 2018 at 12:44 PM ^

Are we sure he's enrolling early? Sam mentioned today that he planned on signing in February but his mother said some things could change so who knows? Would love to get him on campus asap! 


September 19th, 2018 at 4:18 PM ^

Former Oklahoman here. 

Oklahoma high school talent is more quality over quantity, in that they may not produce a lot of talent, but the top guys are elite. 

That being said, there are some powerhouse programs, Union and Jenks being the main ones. 

Overall, I'd say its very comparable to Michigan high school football, albeit with less people and they run different types of systems.