Alden Hill's Visit To Illinois "Amazing"

Fighting Illini running back coach DeAndre Smith got an eyeful when visiting Marlington High School in Alliance, Ohio, recently. Alden Hill, a big, strong running back, blew him away with his track speed. The combination of size and speed produced an Illini scholarship offer, and Hill followed up with a visit to the UI campus Monday. He was impressed, to say the least.

Alden Hill visited Illinois today. It was worth the trip.

"It was amazing! I am so impressed with the facilities and the coaches. I have definitely put them in my top three."

Hill spent much of his time visiting with Illini coaches, all of whom impressed him.

"I got to sit down with Coach (Ron) Zook and talk to him one on one and start to build a relationship with him and discuss what goals I was looking for in a college team. Coach DeAndre Smith and I further built our relationship and watched multiple films to try to grasp their offensive scheme.

"I also met with the offensive coordinator (Paul Petrino) and got to discuss offense. Anytime you get to just sit down and talk football with anyone, especially with a college coach at that level, is great because you can all relate and get on the same page."

He learned that his style is a good fit for the Illini program.

"I feel the coaches provide the style of offense I am used to with the zone and option out of the shotgun."

The 6'-2", 223 pounder has multiple scholarship offers, but Illinois made an impression with its offer.

"I felt real good about that. It was my first Big 10 offer, so of course any time you get a Big 10 offer, there's something to be said about it."

It came about after Smith watched Hill perform in a track meet this May.

"I ran an 11 flat 100. That was my best time. I was running between 11.3 and 11.1, down in that area. I've been running that consistently. We spent a lot of time in the off season to get my speed down, especially at my weight.

"Not that my speed isn't good for my size, it was typical. But you don't always want to be typical at the next level. I want to run the times the guys who weigh 170 run."

The speed he showed that day, combined with the size and strength obvious on film, made the UI's decision an easy one. He has the statistics to back up his developing reputation.

"I rushed for 2,200 yards and 36 touchdowns. I started varsity as a freshman, and I was mostly just a slot. My sophomore season, I had about 1,400 yards. I want to do even better than 2,200 yards this next year."

Hill describes his running style.

"We run a lot of triple option, but I'm more of a North to South, downhill runner. I usually make one cut and go. We run a lot of zone reads, so I find a hole and accelerate. I usually run between the tackles. I can run outside, but a lot of colleges want me to run inside because of my size and the speed I carry with it."

The versatile Hill can also be used as a receiver.

"Last year, I don't know how many balls I caught, but I ran a lot of flair. I can catch the ball, and coaches like to see that. I can catch the ball on option pitches, and I also run flairs, wheels, and I run posts. They use me all over."

Marlington is a small school with big ambitions.

"Our team looks real good. Last year in Division 3, we were #1 in the AP poll, which was great. We were undefeated in our league but lost a playoff game. We had a lot going for us.

"We finished 13-1, and a lot of us were juniors coming back this year. Any time you have three Division I recruits on a Division 3 team, you're doing pretty good. Zach Higgins is an offensive lineman who committed to Michigan State."

The number of scholarship offers is increasing weekly for the articulate youngster.

"I have offers from just about all the MAC, all but three. And then I have Vanderbilt, Virginia, Northwestern, Illinois, Pitt, and Boston College. And Wisconsin's talking to me. They told me to hold on a few weeks and be patient with them."

Hill is taking a studious approach to finding his best school. That includes multiple summer excursions.

"I'm visiting Michigan and Michigan State. They like me as a running back, but they want to see me at camp. They want to make sure I do the same things they saw on film. I'm pretty sure I should be able to do that.

"Some of the other places I want to go include Tennessee, I'm going to their camp, Northestern's camp, Wisconsin's camp, and the Ohio State camp. And then I want to go visit some other ones while I'm in the area. So Northern Illinois, Virginia, Boston College and UConn. And I'll go to a Vanderbilt camp."

That's a lot of travel for one summer, but he wants to give everyone a fair shot at his services.

"It's worth it. I was trying to narrow down my list. I had done a lot more of that before the recruiting process started. But as guys have come in and given me offers, they want me to come for visits."

Several important factors will determine Hill's college choice.

"I like all the running back coaches I've met. That's real important because those are the guys that you will spend the most time with. You may only see the head coach a few days a week. But the running back coach and strength coach, you see them every day. That's very important when you're making a decision.

"Location is not really a factor for me. Colorado is also thinking about offering me a scholarship, and they're quite a ways away. But I'm still considering that school as well.

"What I'm looking at is, you're at a school for four years. You want to make sure it's perfect. You want to make sure every aspect, from the food, sheets in the buying a house, you want to go over everything for your family and for your future. This is my job, and you don't want to end up with something unexpected. This is my dream, so I take it serious.

"Winning games is important. But whether it's winning games for a winning program or starting from scratch like Vanderbilt. They recruited a good quarterback, and they want to recruit a good running back to turn the program around. They give you a chance to start from scratch and win. So how we can win games to turn a program around is good.

"Playing early on, I want the opportunity. Illinois says they have a great opportunity. They have two senior running backs, so that opens up a chance to start playing early. They say I can play early, and that's what some of the other schools say too. That's a big factor. But all schools say that, so it makes my decision harder."

Hill's thinking is just as complex when it comes to deciding on a college major.

"I'd like to major in Graphic Design or maybe Marketing with a minor in Business. Business is always a good thing to have. Graphic Design has always interested me. I like making posters and things like that."

Illinois has a lot to offer Hill. He has now seen the school and football facilities. He likes the coaches and the style of offense. And he was impressed by Mikel Leshoure's success on the football field last fall.

"Yeah, definitely. He did a real good job, and I like him and Coach Smith."

Hill is uncertain on a timetable for making his college choice. But Illinois put itself firmly in the mix Monday.

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