One of the last players on Notre Dame’s radar during the 2014 recruiting cycle was Kolin Hill. The Texas native became a late-rising prospect, visiting South Bend in December and committing just days later. With the Irish in need of pass rush speed off the edge and 4-3 linebackers, Hill looks like the type of prospect who can do all jobs that are needed.
Hill is the product of Kerry Cooks’ continued recruiting success in Texas, where Hill played in the San Antonio area. With his twin brother Kaleb off to Boise State to play for the Broncos, let’s take a closer look at the incoming freshman from Schertz, Texas.
6’2, 220 lbs.
Hill didn’t appear on any national lists and his recruitment was mostly regional until his senior season. But some really impressive game film drew offers from Colorado and then Charlie Strong at Texas, so it’s not as if Hill doesn’t have the skills to compete. On Signing Day, Brian Kelly talked about a player that flew under the radar, an impressive athlete that Kelly likely built his coaching reputation finding.
“Colin was a young man that we offered when he didn’t have a lot of action, but we saw a young man that we thought we could develop into just an outstanding football player,” Kelly said. “After we offered him, of course then he got a million offers after that… Here’s a guy that really will continue to just develop. He has not even seen his ceiling yet. Really excited about Colin and what he can do for us at the linebacker position.”
When it comes to Hill, the upside potential seems enormous. One look at his high school tape shows a kid that knows how to come off the edge and wreak havoc, but doesn’t seem to be the most polished high school player. That’s not a bad thing. In recruiting, sometimes it’s a very good thing. When Cooks talked about Hill, he mentioned similarities to Prince Shembo, another “linebacker” who did his best work coming off the edge.
Hill’s size and length (if he doesn’t keep growing) might limit him in the future, but as long as his speed holds up, he should add a much-needed dimension to the Irish roster, someone who can get after the quarterback. That alone makes him an important recruit, and another one of Cooks comments from Signing Day should have Irish fans quite excited.
“Needless to say, when you see Kolin hill, you see a very impressive raw talent,” Cooks said. “The teams that he played through his high school career: he just dominated them. I didn’t see one offensive tackle or tight end stop him.”
If you were a betting man, Hill seems like a perfect redshirt candidate. But if there’s one type of player that can get on the field quickly for Kelly, it’s a situational pass rusher. With Brian VanGorder’s defense hoping Ishaq Williams and Romeo Okwara can provide the heat off the edge, Hill’s explosiveness could be enough to get him some snaps at defensive end or rush linebacker and just let him loose with one thing on his mind: Getting the quarterback.
Recruits like Hill are intriguing because they show how different players fit different schemes and profiles. Never a guy that would’ve fit in Bob Diaco’s scheme, if Hill comes in and has an impressive career in South Bend, it’ll be a reminder that playmakers come in all shapes and sizes.
When the Irish defense was dominant under Diaco, the size and strength of the front seven could’ve served as an indictment on the speed and athleticism that defines Hill’s profile. But if the Irish defense succeeds with smaller, more athletic players on the edges, it’s not necessarily a black mark on Diaco, but rather an impressive feat by Kelly, a head coach with the ability to play stellar defense in two very different styles.
All that being said, it’s not a black or white issue. Give Hill a few years in a college weight room and he’s Prince Shembo, a four-year contributor in the Irish’s 3-4 defense. Shembo profiled similarly to Darius Fleming, the first Cat linebacker in Kelly’s defense.
The bottom line for Hill is that his talent will take him where he needs to go. And on a roster in need of pass rushers, if he’s got enough of it, this staff will find a job for him.
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