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Why versatile Dax Hill is primed for a breakout season

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“Boy, he can run.” - Don Brown

Vrbo Citrus Bowl - Michigan v Alabama Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Dax Hill’s road to Ann Arbor was a memorable one. The five-star recruit was a Michigan commit, then flipped to Alabama. Hill eventually flipped back to Michigan on signing day and surprised that masses, and the rest was history.

During Hill’s first year at U-M, he showed his athleticism, speed, and hard hitting prowess on special teams coverage and during his snaps on defense. However, it was clear Hill needed more time on task, he was still getting his feet wet. A year later heading into Hill’s second year with the program, the expectations have been heightened, his skills have expanded, and he’s ready to be a major contributor.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Don Brown both believe Hill is one of the most talented players on the team, one that isn’t short on talent. “It’s been a high-level, really,” Harbaugh said of Hill’s play. “The talent, Dax might be our most talented player on the team, arguably. Very, very trusted, very good communicator in the backend. Really knows the safety position and also the nickel position. He’s really, really good.”

Brown noted that Hill is more acclimated in understanding concepts, with pre-snap recognition now coming natural to him. “He’s just lining up, playing football.” Brown said. Hill’s speed, football smarts, coverage capabilities, and physicality make him a well-rounded player that can play multiple positions. Expect to see Hill lined up all over the field this fall. “With Dax, he can cover the slots. Let him do it. He can rush the edge. Let him do it. Is he a good interal blitzer? He can. The guy can cover,” Brown said. In fact, Brown thinks Hill may be the “best cover guy in the Big Ten”.

As far as where Hill will line up the most, Harbaugh and Brown aren’t ready to make that call yet. “Nothing is definite,” Harbaugh told The Michigan Insider. “Dax is really talented, versatile, and can play safety, nickel and corner, and has. We are really anticipating great things from him this season, and it could be from any of those spots.”

Debating where to play an athlete due to their ability to play at a high level at multiple positions is a good problem to have. “He can fit in anywhere he wants to fit in, that’s how talented this guy is,” Brown said. “Obviously, he’s a safety by trade, but he’s a nickel by trade, as well.”

When it comes to Hill’s ceiling, Brown doesn’t think Hill’s there yet, due in part to not being an every-down contributor on defense for most of last season. “We think he has a high, high ceiling,” Brown said. “He has not reached that ceiling in terms of potential turned into every-down performance, but he is certainly going in the right direction.”

Hill’s skills and the way Harbaugh and Brown talk about him indicate they have believe he’s the real deal, but they’ll keep pushing him to reach that high ceiling Brown mentioned. “Of course, he’s working hard, but he makes everything look easy,” Brown said. “We all wish we had those traits.”