In 2018, defensive back recruits Elijah Blades and Jeremiah Criddell made the decision to decommit from the Ducks. This left the Ducks in dire need of a solid defensive back. Oregon had already received verbal commitments from two other defensive backs, Trikweze Bridges and Mykael Wright, but something was still missing from the roster.
Then, in January of 2019, DB Jamal Hill chose Oregon over USC, Colorado, and Tennessee. Hill was a consensus 3-star recruit, coming in at the No. 38 safety in his class nationally, and the No. 44 prospect from the state of Georgia.
Hill earned three letters on the somewhat lackluster team at Morrow High School, GA. He additionally earned All Region first-team Honors as a junior and senior, and graduated after a successful season pulling down 67 tackles, three interceptions, and 16 passes defended. Hill’s senior season earned him an invitation to the Georgia Senior Bowl Classic, where his performance garnered him a lot of attention and significantly raised his recruiting profile.
Hill is a great size for his position, standing at 6’1 and weighing 205 lbs. He’s a fantastic athlete and he demonstrates an unmatched aggression on the field when it comes to attacking the ball. In his senior season highlight reel, you can spot him locking onto ball carriers and launching himself through anything obstructing his path in order to reach his target. His combination of fearlessness and elite athleticism makes him immediately ready to make an impact on the field.
When it comes to positioning and coverage, Hill could use some growth. He has a lot of natural aggression, so he can get caught pushing too high up the field, and find other ways to get drawn out of position as well. After a year with the Ducks, he has hopefully tempered that aggression with discipline.
When it comes to style of play, Hill is definitely a defense-oriented player. While he is great at tracking a play and incapacitating the opponent, his ball skills need work. Developing his ball skills will allow him to become a more versatile back, not only a constant threat to bring players down for a loss as he is now, but also a threat to break up passes and force turnovers.
During the 2019 NCAA season, Hill saw time in every game, recording six total tackles, five which were solo, and sometimes even starting on kickoff coverage and punt returns. He had significant competition for his position as well, with Brady Breeze, Nick Pickett and Sean Kilpatrick, as well as the other redshirt freshmen all available as very viable options. It is fortunate that Hill got so much playing time in 2019, because it allowed him to gain experience in a setting where a little positioning mistake can be serious. I am looking forward to seeing him grow into his game.
The decision of where to attend school was a tight one for Hill, the finalists coming down to Oregon, USC, Colorado, and Tennessee. The Ducks’ fantastic recruiting staff once again came out on top. As Hill stated in 2019, in an article by Chad Simmons from rivals.com:
“Oregon has been on me for about two months and they have texted me every day to check on me and my mom,” said Hill. “I knew it was real when coach Donte Williams came to my house, my school and my track practice in one day. Nobody had done anything like that, so I knew it was real with them.
“It hit me during the visit that Oregon was the right fit for me…It was definitely a family feeling. The players are great and they have one goal — to win a national championship. It is the best opportunity for me to win a championship, get a great degree and be successful after football.”
Clearly, Hill doesn’t need to work on his decision-making.
Hill has inserted himself into the Ducks roster. He demonstrated consistent ability to operate at the NCAA level in his freshman year. Although he has areas of his game that he needs to work on, I can’t wait to see how he’ll develop as 2020 continues.
What’s your outlook on the Ducks’ DB’s?
Top photo by Kevin Kline
Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.
Zeke Lerner-Wood is a freshman at the University of Oregon from Alameda, California. Growing up in the Bay, Zeke follows the A’s, Raiders, and Warriors and since starting classes at the University, Zeke has been introduced to the world of NCAA football and has become an avid fan.
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