Buckeyes Happy To Add Talented K.J. Hill

Ohio State's quest to add another explosive skill position player to its 2015 class ended on National Signing Day when K.J. Hill committed, thanks in part to a longstanding relationship between the wideout and Chris Ash.

Chris Ash prides himself as a man of integrity, so when he took the job at Ohio State last year, he didn’t want to step on the toes of his former boss Bret Bielema.

That meant not pushing too hard for recruits he knew the Arkansas offensive staff was in on, a list that included North Little Rock, Ark., wideout K.J. Hill. That was especially true after Hill, a four-star prospect, gave his pledge to the Razorbacks in August.

"I've known K.J. throughout the process when I was at Arkansas, and when I came here there was no intention of continuing to recruit K.J.,” Ash said on National Signing Day. “He had been offered by Ohio State, there had been interest from Ohio State previously, but out of my respect to Coach Bielema and the rest of the staff there, I really had no interest in recruiting him.”

Of course, as they often do in recruiting, things changed. After competing at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January, Hill backed away from his Arkansas commitment. Suddenly, that prior relationship between the two parties was not a burden but a boon for Ohio State.

“Later on in the process at some point they made the decision as a family that they wanted to reopen their recruitment, and when they did that we were there and got back involved and that's kind of how we got to where we're at today,” Ash said.

And where they are today is Hill signed a letter of intent last week on National Signing Day to join the Buckeye program. It was one of five NSD victories for the Buckeyes and perhaps the one most out of left field, as the Buckeyes’ interest in the four-star prospect was on the back burner until his Arkansas pledge went by the wayside.

The Razorbacks and Alabama stayed in the mix until the end, but the nation’s No. 229 player was most comfortable with Ohio State when it was time to put pen to paper.

"I think one thing Coach Ash probably did well is K.J. is not a kid who wants to sit on the phone forever and talk,” North Little Rock offensive coordinator Blake Pizan, who coached Hill the past two years, told BuckeyeSports.com. “Coach Ash has always been short and sweet and to the point and very straightforward, and I think K.J. appreciated that and I think he appreciated the fact that (Urban) Meyer helps out the receivers. I think that was a big deal to him.

“The thing that was impressive that really sold him on the program, I think he really enjoyed the official visit up there. The atmosphere, the college, the fans, the coaches, everything he liked. There was no negative that came out of that."

Ohio State will now get a target who caught 58 passes for 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns while running for seven more scores for an NLR team that used him in the wildcat at times. Perhaps his most impressive game was against Little Rock Central when he piled up 216 receiving yards, two receiving scores, a rushing score and a kickoff return TD.

“He is a playmaker, there's no doubt about it,” Pizan said. “Anytime he touches the football, good things happen. He's a guy that is also not selfish. He understands sometimes if he's getting double teamed or if the defense is making sure they don't let him beat them, then he's not afraid to let other guys touch the football. He's a guy that's more worried about the team winning games. That's his main concern."

Ohio State receivers coach Zach Smith said he’s excited to add the electric 6-0, 190-pounder into the fold.

“We stayed in touch and Chris was the one the one that was beating down the door,” Smith said. “The kid ended up deciding he didn’t want to go to Arkansas and he ended up coming on a visit and he loved it. He’s an electric kid. He can fly and with the ball in his hands he is a play waiting to happen.”

Hill also gets high marks from Pizan for what he’ll bring to the table at Ohio State as a person.

"On the field, he takes care of his part,” the North Little Rock coach said. “He is always making sure he does his things right, and then if somebody is messing up, he's a guy who might whisper in their ear. He's not real vocal. When it's game time, he will be vocal. He'll do everything he can to pick his teammates up.

“Off the field he's a very high character guy. He doesn't get in trouble. He's a laidback type of kid. He's high integrity. He has a lot of fans here in Arkansas, so not once did he not shake somebody's hands or take a picture or sign an autograph. If he kid asks, he was always there for them."

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