In a class that features the No. 1 player in the country, finishing with the signature of elite Dnton Ryan linebacker Anthony Hill, Jr. may be the biggest coup of the entire 2023 recruiting cycle for the Texas Longhorns’ coaching staff. Hill committed last Thursday, visited Austin over the weekend, and then signed with the Longhorns on Wednesday during the early signing period.
Earning the services of the No. 1 linebacker in the country will never be an easy path for a team, but winding the circuitous path to earning Hill’s signature was full of ups and downs, before ultimately having a somewhat anticlimactic end for Texas. Hill was thought to be a Texas lean early, but the end of the Tom Herman era and the beginning of the Steve Sarkisian era seemingly made things tougher for the Longhorns. After both teams hosted him for visits this summer, along with the Alabama Crimson Tide, the USC Trojans, and the Oklahoma Sooners, Hill named a final two of Texas and Texas A&M, before unexpectedly committing to the Aggies a day later.
The Texas staff clearly never gave up on the chase, which ultimately paid dividends in the end.
Thanks in part to the Aggies’ disastrous 5-7 year, including a 41-24 home loss to the Florida Gators which Hill was on hand to witness, he ultimately reopened his recruitment and Texas emerged as an early favorite. After courting him for the month following his official decommitment, Hill officially committed to the Longhorns when the coaches did his in-home visit in the final days before the pre-signing day dead period.
The No. 1 linebacker in the country and the No. 19 player overall, according to the 247Sports composite, Hill becomes the highest-ranked defensive player to sign with Texas since Caden Sterns in 2018 and the highest-ranked linebacker since Malik Jefferson in 2015. His talent and preexisting skillset mean he likely walks on campus in January as a favorite to start alongside Jaylan Ford at the interior linebacker spot.
His addition to the class gives Texas not only an elite haul at the linebacker position, but makes the third top-ranked player at their position, joining No. 1 quarterback Arch Manning and No. 1 running back Cedric Baxter in the group. Texas didn’t just add numbers at linebacker, but quality and positional versatility with the lineup up Hill plus four-star linebackers S’Maje Burrell and Liona Lefau joining as well.
Analysis (by Daniel Seahorn):
Hill has been a known commodity on the recruiting scene since his freshman year and since then he has become one of the most decorated linebacker recruits in the country. He is already a two-time high school All-American with a state championship on his resume and he is the heart and soul of a talented Denton Ryan football team. Hill is listed at 6’2, 225 pounds, which gives him good measurables for the position. He is featured as an off-the-ball linebacker, but sometimes they will walk him out to the edge in some situations. How athletic is Hill? On tape, it shows him taking a Wildcat quarterback snap and housing it from 70 yards out. If that wasn’t enough, they then lined up at running back in a full house backfield look and he takes the handoff in from 50 yards out. The big fella can run a little bit, and he could probably be featured in some jumbo packages at the next level if a coach wanted to get creative. I don’t have him in the same category as I did for Harold Perkins last year (super rare athleticism for an LB), but he is no slouch. Possesses good closing speed once he commits and puts his foot in the ground. He is at his best when he is attacking downhill and possesses the athleticism to pursue from sideline to sideline. He is a knockback tackler, who also does a solid job of wrapping up and getting ball carriers to the turf. Would like to see more of him in coverage drops to check his comfort levels and proficiency, but he did have two picks in 2021, including pick six. Can get caught up in the wash at times in pursuit, but his ball production is very good so he makes way more plays than he misses.
Hill is the caliber of player that has the ability to push for rotational snaps from the moment he arrives on campus and has the ability to be a piece you can build around defensively.