Irish A-to-Z: Kolin Hill

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Freshman Kolin Hill had quite a debut for the Irish, making a major impact against Michigan in the season’s second game as a designated pass rusher. The outside linebacker essentially served as a defensive end, wreaking havoc off the edge against the Wolverines, helping to send away the Michigan rivalry with a 1.5 sack day that included two total tackles for loss.

It was the high point of Hill’s first season in South Bend, who basically served as the poster child for Brian VanGorder’s sub-package heavy defensive scheme. And while he disappeared down the stretch, Hill’s unique ability—getting after the quarterback–should serve him well in 2015 and beyond.

 

KOLIN HILL
6’1.5″, 230 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 43, LB

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

An under the radar prospect until his senior season, Hill entertained mostly regional offers until Texas came calling late in the process—after he had committed to Notre Dame. Hill committed to the Irish in December after visiting Colorado, while his twin brother went to Boise State, one of the final recruiting wins for Kerry Cooks.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2014): Played in nine of Notre Dame’s 13 games, notching four tackles on the season, three coming against Michigan. Did not see action against Rice, Florida State, Arizona State or Northwestern.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

It looks like I was on to something when I called Hill the ideal candidate to be a situational pass rusher. Now we just need to see why the quick start against Michigan turned into nothing more than one big game.

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.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Finding playing time in Notre Dame’s linebacking depth chart doesn’t look so simple until Jaylon Smith, Joe Schmidt and Jarrett Grace depart. And even then, Brian VanGorder has quickly restocked the position, with an impressive freshman class coming in right behind Hill.

Right now, the future for Hill still seems to be as a pass rusher, and Notre Dame isn’t exactly flush with weakside pass rushers. So while Hill’s sub-6’2″ height and marginal size don’t scream defensive end, the lack of established options to rush the passer at least guarantee Hill the chance to be a third-down weapon.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

On Signing Day in February, Brian Kelly singled out Bo Wallace as the best pass rusher of the recruiting class. Wallace never ended up coming to South Bend, meaning there’s nobody walking through the door to answer the Irish’s need to find someone who can get after the passer.

That’s where Hill comes in. Without an every down defensive end who can dominate on third down, it’ll be a group approach to chasing down quarterbacks. That might include Jaylon Smith, whose value also comes with his ability to shutdown everybody but the nation’s most elusive wide receivers. But it should also include Hill, who’ll have another year of knowledge in an NFL system that likely limited his effectiveness in 2014.

The jury is still out when it comes to deciding if Hill has three-down talent to play in this system. But in passing situations, Hill might be Notre Dame’s best option to chase down a quarterback, a role he’ll gladly service as a sophomore.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR
Mark Harrell, OL
Jay Hayes, DL
Mike Heuerman, TE