Notre Dame football recruiting: LB Hilliard gaining national attention
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly (Robert Franklin, South Bend Trib / South Bend Tribune / April 21, 2012)
Earlier in June, the 2015 linebacker visited Ohio State and received an offer following the camp. On Monday, Hilliard camped at Michigan with the same result.
But when Hilliard visits Notre Dame for the Future Stars Camp on Friday, the start of ND's biggest recruiting weekend of the summer, he'll participate with an offer already extended from the Irish.
That offer came last week when Hilliard spoke with head coach Brian Kelly and a number of other staff members via video on the FaceTime app. The Irish joined an offer list that's ballooned to more than 25 before Hilliard's junior season, but it still meant a lot to the stud linebacker.
"They're great academically, and the football speaks for itself," he said. "It was pretty cool."
Hilliard, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound prospect from Cincinnati's St. Xavier High, has earned attention after a sophomore season with 65 tackles, seven sacks and two interceptions. While the Midwest powerhouses of Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan have offered this summer, Hilliard's become a national prospect with offers from Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Arkansas as well.
CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming hasn't ranked the 2015 class yet, but Hilliard stood out while Lemming was traveling the country this year to scout 2014 talent.
"I love him," Lemming said. "It's good to see Notre Dame get involved with Ohio kids early."
247Sports.com has Hilliard ranked as the best recruit in Ohio in the 2015 class, the No. 4 outside linebacker, and No. 43 overall. At St. Xavier, Hilliard plays a linebacker/safety hybrid position in a 3-3-5 defense, a testament to his athletic ability.
In his conversations with the Notre Dame staff, Hilliard said he's learned that the Irish slate him as an inside linebacker in Bob Diaco's 3-4 scheme. Hilliard regularly communicates with defensive line coach Mike Elston, his regional recruiter, but has also had conversations with Diaco and Kelly.
Friday will be his first visit to Notre Dame's campus. Coming from a Catholic high school, the same one as Irish senior wide receiver Luke Massa, Hilliard said the religious aspect of Notre Dame intrigues him.
"It helps them a little bit. I think it's pretty cool how they use their faith," Hilliard said. "The tradition goes all the way back. It would probably be an easier transition."
With a year and a half left until his signing day, Hilliard has his focus on several things while visiting campuses. After Friday's visit, he will have an idea on how things will start to unfold with Notre Dame for the remainder of his recruitment.
Hilliard's older brother C.J., a 2014 running back prospect, has already committed to Iowa and given him a blueprint to follow.
"I have to feel comfortable at the place I play at and I want to win a national championship too," Hilliard said, "so wherever I can find a mixture of those to go with academics. That's always important."
Staff writer Tyler James: