RECRUITING: Ryan Hill Has Five Schools On His Mind

When Ryan Hill of Tallahassee (FL) Rickards attended camp at the University of Florida in June, it was a virtual who's who for defensive backs. Against some of the best competition that can be found in the southeastern United States, Hill had an impressive showing with his aggressive and often nasty cover skills. Those skills are why Hill's top five include some of the most impressive names in college football.

(Ryan Hill profile)

At the Florida camp, Hill competed with Jacques Rickerson of St. Augustine, Marcus Udell of Tallahassee Godby, Ricky Gary of Pahokee, Bryan Thomas of Zephyrhills, and many more outstanding defensive backs. Hill proved that he has plenty of speed and agility, but he also showed his upper body strength as he was able to rough up receivers at the line of scrimmage.

Those who saw Hill play at Rickards last year probably aren't surprised that he had such an outstanding camp in Gainesville. Since the Tallahassee area produces some of the best high school talent in the country for its population, a player who stands out in those leagues is always going to be highly rated. As a junior, Hill turned in 53 tackles, four interceptions and 12 batted passes from his cornerback spot.

At the Florida camp, Hill not only enjoyed the competition of the camp, but he also came away with a solid impression of the Florida coaching staff and the campus.

"I loved it," he said about the camp. "I loved Coach (Chuck) Heater and Coach (Urban) Meyer and the things they are doing. Florida is definitely going to be the school that will be a national championship contender. I really love the facilities there."

Hill came away particularly impressed with the on the field intensity of the Florida coaching staff along with the way they recruit and carry on their daily business.

"Coach Meyer … I really like his attitude and the way he approaches football," he said. "He is one of the few head coaches that actually came out and watched us this spring (at Rickards). He is the one coach that looked right in my eyes. He never really smiled, and I could tell he meant business. He wanted me for me and wanted to know what I wanted to get out of the game of football. I heard him speak at the camp, and I really got a good feel for what he wanted out of the Gator football program."

Heater is Florida's recruiting coordinator, but on the field, he coaches Florida's cornerbacks. Obviously Hill made a big impression on Heater, but Heater has impressed Hill, too.

"Coach Heater is actually the first Gator coach I started building a relationship with," he said. "We talk about every two weeks, and he text messages me every now and then. He will be my defensive secondary coach, and he talks to me about early playing time. I know he really wants me up there so I can start being a Gator as early as I can."

Now that we're into the month of July, it's more or less a dead period for recruiting. The entire process has slowed to a crawl for Hill, whose only camp experience so far this summer was in Gainesville. Coaches are not allowed to call recruits right now so most days are quiet. That has allowed Hill to ponder the many offers he has received. Soon he hopes that he can make plans for official visits.

"Right now it is kind of slow," he said. "I hopefully am going to start planning my visit dates. Florida and Miami are going to be my top two. I visited Florida but that was it. I was supposed to visit Miami but I had to take the ACT. I will probably get with Bobby Bowden in the middle of this week because the Bobby Bowden Camp is going on as we speak."

He has four schools that are solid and there is another that is closing fast to join the top five.

"I have a general idea of my top five," he said. "My top five in no order are Florida, Miami, Florida State, Clemson, the last one is tough, but I will say Georgia."

Growing up in Tallahassee, it comes as no shock that he grew up a Florida State fan. He has ties to FSU but that doesn't mean he will wind up a Seminole. He insists that he has an open mind about all the schools he is considering.

"I was always a Florida State fan naturally," he said. "I had a couple of cousins that went there and I have a cousin there now. My first cousin is Corey Fuller who played for Florida State. He went on to play in the NFL. When you get older, you realize there are a bunch of choices out there. When I grew up we hated the Gators and the Canes, but now I realize it might be me. I am kind of throwing Florida, Miami and FSU all in the same bucket right now."

The lure of Miami is the way the Hurricanes have become a proving ground for players who are about to go high in the NFL draft. In particular, Miami has put quite a few players into starting roles in NFL secondaries. That makes quite an impression on a teenager from North Florida who dreams of playing in the pros some day.

"Coach Don Soldinger is recruiting me," he said about Miami. "Miami puts more defensive backs in the league than any other college. I like the atmosphere down there a lot. I like how they compete every day in practice. They are a high competition team, they are very fast paced, I love the way they play defense. I have talked to Coach Tim Walton and Coach Soldinger. I am starting to know those guys real good. Hopefully I will get a chance to get down there and get to know Coach (Larry) Coker a little better. I get called Antrell Rolle Jr. around Tallahassee … maybe I can keep that name and meet his potential."

Before it is all said and done, the home town Seminoles will have their say. Their close proximity and success, particularly on the defensive side of the ball are quite an attraction.

"It is right here in my hometown," Hill said about FSU. "They play a great defense. (Defensive Coordinator)Mickey Andrews rotates corners and most all positions on defense … that is somerhing I could grow to like. I would appreciate rotating because if I come in as a freshman I would rotate with the starter and get some playing time and be playing for a national championship every year."

There is always a soft spot in the heart for a first love and that also applies to recruiting. Clemson was the first school to actively recruit Hill, so he has kept the Tigers on the front burner. He also sees an immediate need for help in the Clemson secondary.

"They were one of the first teams that were recruiting me," he said. "Coach Sweeney and Coach Vick up there are cool. I think I can actually go up there and start. They are lacking defensive backs up there. As far as corner backs go, they can use a couple of good corners. That would be a great opportunity to go to South Carolina and get the exposure needed to get to the next level. It is also a great academic institution."

Georgia may be the "other" school at the moment, but there is a connection there as well. Hill traveled to LSU's football camp last summer where he was coached by Kirby Smart. Smart now coaches for Georgia and he's continued recruiting Hill.

"Coach Kirby Smart at Georgia actually started recruiting me at LSU when I went to camp up there and I just kept it going from there," he said. "They are short at defensive back also. I am going to get some more information on Georgia and see what I can get out of that."

Since he talked about playing time with Georgia and Clemson, the natural question to ask was how playing time will effect his decision to pick a school? Hill says competition doesn't bother him because he knows he will have to work hard wherever he goes to school.

"I really think it depends on how your first couple of months go on the practice field … how much you compete," he said. "I feel if you compete, any of them will give you a chance to compete early. Clemson probably offers the best chance to play early."

He has made up his mind what he will study in college. He's already aware that there is life after football even though he aspires to one day play for pay in the big show. He's looking for a school that has strong academics but also provides an environment that will help him develop as a person.

"I want to major in criminology," he said. "I want a school that can promote a good degree in criminal justice. I also want to see who can further my career in football. I also am thinking about the social life, my relationships with people on the team and how I fit in with people at the university."

He wants to get the decision making done although that might not mean a public commitment any time soon. He wants to be able to sit back at the tail end of the recruiting process and just think about what the schools have to offer..

"I will probably text Coach Heater and see the earliest dates I can get (for his visit)," he said. "I will go from there and I will talk to my head coach and see. I want to get them as early as I can get them … the faster they come in I can tell you then for sure. I definitely want to get my visits out of the way early. That will help me be able to decide."

Ryan Hill is attacking the recruiting process like he attacks wide receivers. He has set his personal goals and now he's trying to find which university best matches what he's looking for.

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