The Cardinal is the only program in the West to make the linebacker's top-nine.

“I want to stay close to home but that's just a huge opportunity you might not be able to pass on. That's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Shelby (NC) linebacker Dax Hollifield wasted little time in the 2018 cycle to trim his list to nine.

North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Alabama, Florida State, LSU, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Stanford and Wake Forest all made the list for the 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker.

The common theme of these schools? Hollifield connected with the coaching staffs. 

Stanford jumps out on this list as the only West Coast school for a recruit who hasn’t been west of Indiana or Alabama. 

I want to stay close to home but that's just a huge opportunity you might not be able to pass on. That's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Hollifield said. “They are probably the only West school I would probably consider going to.”

Stanford already made the top-nine for Hollifield, but it seems as though they could make the next cut as well. 

“I really like them a lot, and they will probably be in my top five when I'm trying to figure out who I will take an official visit with," Hollifield said. "I really like them a lot. I like (inside linebackers coach Peter Hansen) a lot. He's a great guy.”

Hollifield’s MaxPreps stat sheet is stunning: 146 tackles, 52 tackles for loss and 18 sacks. His Shelby High School team was a perfect 16-0.

The source of Hollifield’s astronomical numbers? His increased speed and a commitment to preparation.

“I'm going to beat you before the play even starts," Hollifield said. "I'm going to know where the ball is going before the play starts. I'm a really smart linebacker. I take pride in trying to outsmart you because I know I'm not going to be the best athlete on the field all the time, so I have to find other ways I'm going to beat you.”

Hollifield is the son of a coach, Shelby High School head basketball coach Aubrey Hollifield. Growing up, basketball was Dax’s love and he credits that sport for his success on the gridiron. 

“If I did not play basketball, I don't think I would be talking to you right now," Hollifield said. "I would not be very athletic. I played AAU growing up all the time when I was a little kid. That got me to where I am today, my lateral quickness and stuff like that. I think basketball is the best thing for a football player to do.”

The guy everyone calls “Luke Kuechly” will have a busy spring. He wants to visit many of the schools in his top nine, though he doesn’t have any official plans yet. He also wants to continue to work on his speed for his senior season and beyond.

"Elite linebackers these days are super super fast. Speed kills. That's what I really want to prove is my speed."

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