When five-star safety Daxton Hill flipped from Alabama back to Michigan, it marked a historic win in the Wolverines’ recruiting history. Not only does the Tulsa product — ranked eighth in the 247Sports Composite — headline Michigan’s top-10 2019 recruiting class, he is also the Wolverines’ sixth-best recruit since 2000, trailing only Rashan Gary, Jabrill Peppers, Ryan Mallett, Lamarr Woodley and Prescott Burgess.
And Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, speaking on a special edition of the Inside Michigan Football radio show on Wednesday, believes it’s only the beginning for Hill.
“He’s a fantastic player, great family, his brother is an outstanding running back at Oklahoma State — someday he’s going to be a pro running back,” Harbaugh said. “Really gifted athletically, also a playmaker. You watch his games, and the amount of plays that he makes, fumbles his causes, interceptions he makes, tackles he makes, hits that he makes.
To Harbaugh, two things stand out particularly in Hill’s game. First, Hill’s interest in contact — which has led to 150 tackles in the last two seasons — is impressive for a 185-pound safety.
Second, and the trait that put Hill on everybody’s radar, is Hill’s speed. Be it an electronically timed 4.30 40-yard dash, a 43.6-inch vertical leap (both of which would have led the 2018 NFL Draft Combine) or a 4.33 shuttle drill. There’s objective evidence that Hill is among the fastest players in the country.
Combine the two, and Harbaugh believes he has elite talent on its hands.
“From a safety perspective, he’s a hitter. He’s not afraid of contact,” Harbaugh said. Also a lot of speed, I didn’t see one game where he wasn’t the fastest player on the field, and I think he’s going to be that type of player in college.
“Big-time safety. He’s a low-key guy, doesn’t love a ton of attention that way, but he’s got the ability to be one of the best safeties Michigan’s ever had.”
Devin Bush departs on good terms
On the same day that Hill signed to join Michigan’s class, the Wolverines bid adieu to a player who already can be seen as one of the all-time great, as Devin Bush Jr. announced that he will be skipping the Peach Bowl and declaring early for the NFL Draft.
And while Bush’s departure (cited as due to a hip injury, as Bush said he hadn’t yet been cleared to practice) is a blow to the Wolverines, Harbaugh held no ill will toward Bush, who was a consensus All-American and the 2018 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
“He’s had a stellar career,” Harbaugh said. “An All-American, he’s going to have his picture on the wall (of first-team All-Americans in Michigan history), and I think it’s going to be engrained in our minds of No. 10 running and hitting and making plays sideline to sideline.
“Now you recruit players and you say ‘Can he be like Devin? Can he be another Devin?’ ”
Bush, who finished with 182 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and 15 pass breakups in two seasons as Michigan’s starting middle linebacker, is widely regarded as a first-round pick for next spring.
Eleven wins remains a priority
Though the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl remains a consolation prize for Michigan — who spent several weeks in the College Football Playoff picture before losing to Ohio State Nov. 24 — the game does present a distinct opportunity for the 2018 Wolverines team.
Only nine teams in program history have won 11 or more games, and only five have done so since 1905. Additionally, only 15 teams in program history have finished in the AP top-five, and none have done so since 1999.
It won’t result in a banner, but Michigan can make some history with a win over No. 10 Florida in Atlanta.
“It’s huge,” Harbaugh said. “It’s most of what all we think about, having good practices, preparing for it, we’re gonna let it rip. I love the way our team’s been practicing and competing, and I can’t wait for it.”