Hill evaluation; Devil backer/End analysis

What are the Sun Devils getting with the commitment of four-star junior college defensive end Christian Hill? Here's our evaluation of Hill as a prospect and Arizona State's overview at the Devil backer and field end positions projecting to 2016 and beyond.

Devil Backer

Ideal scholarship roster number: 3-4

Potential returning number (in 2016): 4-5 Alani Latu (could move to field end), Ismael Murphy-Richardson, Davon Durant (indefinitely suspended and may not be at ASU), Malik Lawal, Bo Wallace)

Likely returning number: 3-4

2016 Commitments: 0-1 Christian Hill

Remaining ideal number: 0-1

Field End

Ideal scholarship roster number: 3-4

Potential returning number (in 2016): 4-5 Edmond Boateng, Renell Wren, Corey Smith (also plays tackle), A.J. Latu (could play Devil or End) Jalen Bates, )

Likely returning number: 3-4

2016 Commitments: 0-1 Christian Hill

Remaining ideal number: 0-1

The Skinny: Light on bodies at Devil backer this spring and with the status of Davon Durant very uncertain, Arizona State added high school pass rusher and former Notre Dame signee Bo Wallace recently to its 2015 class and has now supplemented that with a big early commitment in the 2016 class: Glendale (Ariz.) Community College standout Christian Hill.

Though he's a junior college player, Hill is atypical in that last season at GCC was just his first year seeing action on the field in organized football. The Kansas City native was on the team but said he didn't hardly play in high school and spent four years in the Air Force after graduation. Even though he'd never really played, Hill had 18 tackles and eight sacks as a freshman and earned all-conference honors.

Based on his remarkable productivity for someone so new to football, Hill was offered a scholarship by ASU, Arizona, Colorado State, Louisville, Oregon, Oregon State, Purdue, San Diego State and Washington State. Many other schools were keeping close tabs on him through the time of his Sun Devil commitment, which came following a visit to the school Friday, his second in recent months.

At 6-foot-6, 265 pounds and 23 years old, Hill is still a relatively blank slate as a football player and it's tough to tell what position will be his best long term. He weighed 275 pounds when in the Air Force, so as soon as he gets into Arizona State's program and has the nutrition advantages over junior college, he could again get bigger and perhaps be a field end. Or he could stay lean and be a bigger Devil backer. The way ASU coach Todd Graham likes to use interior pass rushers at the 3-technique tackle position, it's not out of the question Hill could be moved inside at some point given the type of athlete he is.

From a technical standpoint, Hill is still really early in his evolution and that has to make coaches excited given how productive he was able to be without really knowing what he's doing yet. On film his feet are not consistent in terms of his base set up and get off and yet even from a less economical and unsettled stance he releases well, plays with pretty good pad level as an edge rusher for how tall and long he is, and has a great presence.

Hill's range, closing speed and ability to chase down plays from the back side are all glaringly apparent on film and an indication of his long-term athletic upside. He runs extremely well, reportedly 4.5 40-yard dash speed, for his size.

But there are other things that really make an impression on us as it relates to the player Hill should eventually be. He squeeze run gaps shut very well even through engagement, and that's something a lot of pass rush ends don't do well, especially when they are so inexperienced. A big part of this is how well Hill naturally uses his length both against the pass and run. He creates contact with extended arms and is able to dislodge in a very innate way.

That effective use of length and arm span are quite challenging for offensive tackles to handle and one of the things that unsettles good tackles most, especially when ends are also versatile in their pass rush. Hill likes to cut cleanly and with aggressive linear steps to the inside as a rusher and as a result is a very good 4i technique option long term, which can give offensive lines fits. But Hill also is a comfortable bull rusher with how he runs his feet and engages his outstretched arms, and will dip his hip and shoulder better than most guys with his size as an edge rusher and bend well on the corner.

Assuming he takes well to some of the stance and get-off adjustments that are to come from coaching at the FCS level and also start to develop more of a power rip move -- something Hill really doesn't utilize but will be lethal if he can incorporate -- Hill has a chance to be one of the best NFL prospects ASU's had in recent years at an end or hybrid outside linebacker position. The way he can turn and run for his size is very rare and Hill can zone drop to the boundary flat and even mirror tight ends and some backs in space. He's an extremely versatile and intriguing prospect and there just aren't many guys like this at the junior college level in the West in any given recruiting class.

ASU loves have length and versatility with its players and especially along the defensive line. You can see that's being executed very effectively and layered in with its Devil and field end positions in recent classes and there are really a lot of ways it can go with some of its lineup combinations and depth chart. Rennel Wren is a long and big player who can slide from end to tackle, Jalen Bates will probably eventually play end but could start at Devil and even perhaps eventually be a 3-technique tackle. Bo Wallace is a long and athletic, rangy Devil backer. Hill is like a more athletic version of Edmond Boateng in that he could play Devil or end. There's more than one way in which ASU can have three or four guys at 6-foot-4 or taller all on the defensive line together at the same time (including the Devil backer spot) projecting into 2016 and beyond. That longer, more athletic type of defensive front is one that Graham and his staff has been trying to develop.


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