With several exits via the transfer portal and the NFL Draft, the depth of the linebacker room at Michigan is a bit thin this year. This provides opportunities for some of the younger players to crack the rotation. One such guy is second-year linebacker Nikhai Hill-Green. Today, we’ll explore what brought him to Michigan and what we can expect out of him moving forward.
The story so far
Hill-Green grew up in Pittsburgh but moved to Baltimore to play football at St. Frances Academy, a national high school football power in every sense of the term. They travel the country to only play the best of the best, like IMG (FL) and Mater Dei (CA). Biff Poggi, now on the Michigan coaching staff as of this offseason, coached at St. Frances and has a handful of players to Michigan. It’s safe to say St. Frances has become a proverbial “feeder school” for Michigan.
Hill-Green comes to Ann Arbor as a hard-hitting outside linebacker. Rated as a three-star by 247Sports, he slotted in at No. 393 nationally, No. 25 at outside linebacker and No. 17 in the state of Maryland. In high school, he measured at 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds. Now he is listed at 225 pounds. True to his rankings, he received offers from schools such as Indiana, Pitt, Purdue and Wisconsin.
Coming out of high school, there was shockingly little scouting on a D-1 prospect out of a powerhouse program. What scouting was available pointed to Hill-Green as a thumping, powerful linebacker with somewhat limited athleticism. A comparison to Mike McCray immediately pops into my mind. Hill-Green was quite raw as a prospect, as he needed to work on his first step and ability to read a play.
In 2020, he appeared in three games on special teams and assisted on one tackle against Wisconsin.
Outlook for 2021
All indications read Hill-Green still needs a year or so to develop before he turns into a major contributor on defense. With that being said, that might not be a luxury new Michigan defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald is afforded. Only Josh Ross, Michael Barrett, Anthony Solomon and Joey Velazquez have been on the roster longer than Hill-Green. Barring an incoming freshman jumping Hill-Green on the depth chart, there appears to be a spot for him in the two-deep.
How well he fits into the new defensive scheme is yet to be determined. This will shape his career moving forward. The playing time is there, but Hill-Green needs to seize the opportunity and run with it. The boom-or-bust potential is still there, as he could either become a multi-year starter or could be jumped on the depth chart. The jury is still out.