Recruiting: TE Tony Hills the 'Complete Package'

Perhaps the talent most difficult to find is that of the tight end that is adept at both blocking and being a threat in the passing game. All too often tight ends are categorized as one or the other. Even former Miami Hurricane stud, <B>Jeremy Shockey</b> (6-5, 238, 4.6) can be described as a pass-catching tight end, rather than a complete tight end, at this stage of his NFL career.

When searching for an every-down tight end there simply are not enough of them to go around, causing teams in both the NFL and collegiate ranks to rely on a platoon situation. That ultimately tips off the defense, hence the importance of landing or drafting the complete package when it comes to tight ends.

Examining the Longhorns you find that they are no different than most of the teams out there. With Bo Scaife sidelined, the Horns rely on the unique strengths of various tight ends more than ever. Still, even Scaife, at 6-3, 250 pounds, can be described as less of a blocking threat and more of a receiving threat despite knee injuries robbing him of his past speed. His blocking is decent, but not what you would call exceptional.

Brock Edwards, at 6-5, 250 pounds, has the size, but doesn't particularly excel in either aspect of the game. His lacks great speed, hands are inconsistent and his blocking leaves a bit to be desired.

With David Thomas standing at 6-3, 220 pounds, he's more of what you would call a glorified receiver rather than a true tight end in Greg Davis' offense, while senior Chad Stevens wears the label of being the Horns' best blocking tight end. Of course, he'll be moving on after this year, which makes landing Tony Hills priority No. 1 for Texas tight ends coach Mac McWhorter.

IT caught up with Hills, arguably the nation's most complete tight end in the 2003 class of prospects. There is no better all-around tight end prospect than Elsik High's Hills. But securing the pledges of the state's top-ranked tight end will not be easy as the Horns find themselves competing against Florida, Colorado, Oklahoma, Iowa and Iowa State to name a few.

Hills offers an impressive size/speed combination, tremendous strength, superb blocking skills and the potential to be a huge threat in the passing game. He compares favorably to last year's Washington Huskies tight end Jerramy Stevens (6-6, 260, 4.7), who was literally a one-man wrecking crew against the Horns in the Holiday Bowl. But even Stevens carries a reputation of not being physical enough in the running game. Hills, on the other hand, doesn't shy away from contact and doesn't lack aggressiveness.

As a blocker, Hills uses his 6-6, 260-pound frame to wall off defenders. And he uses his upper-body strength to sustain his blocks while utilizing his speed to block moving targets.

In the passing game, Hills uses his ideal size and strength to establish position, providing an excellent target over the middle as well as in the red zone. His speed makes him a legitimate deep threat on seam routes and he can line up in the slot or split out, posing matchup headaches in both areas.

So what's his current measurements, weight room totals and stats?

"Six-six, 255 pounds, 31-inch vertical and a 4.6 forty," said the high school senior. "I'm benching 330, have a 475-pound squat and a power clean of 300. And we're more of running team on offense, so I don't get many opportunities to catch the ball, but I have nine catches for 203 yards and close to 40 de-cleaters (pancake and/or knockdown blocks)."

Coming off a huge win over Ft. Bend Dulles in last week's playoff game, Hills still hasn't set up any visits.

"What I'm doing is waiting for the playoffs to end," he said. "I'll probably try to take all five of my visits and will make a decision once I have seen all of the schools I choose to visit. And because I won't have a lot of time to think it over, I'll probably commit closer to national Signing Day."

Asked to describe his game, Hills said: "I'm especially good at blocking and catching the ball. And I can run really well. I'm what you would call a strong/finesse-type of player because I'm good at both blocking and receiving form the tight end position."

According to Hills, he worked out with Alief Hastings' Alonzo Dotson, as well as with his father Santana Dotson, this past summer, primarily doing conditioning drills to stay in shape. Hills also got the chance to play against Alonzo a couple of weeks ago. "I did pretty well against him and he did pretty well," Hills said. "He didn't have a lot of plays, but you could tell he was in the game."

The 4-star blue chip tight end caught the Texas-Houston game and came away impressed. "Texas is very talented and they have a lot of team chemistry," said Hills. "They play very hard and play to win. When it was close to the end of the half and they were up, they were still trying to score points and I like that because you never know if a team might come back in the second half. I like their mentality on offense. They're fast-paced and can score quickly. They just have a lot of weapons."

Texas tight end/offensive tackles coach McWhorter has the responsibility of luring the outstanding tight end recruit to the Forty Acres. Hills said he speaks with McWhorter more than any other Texas coach and that he is impressed with coach McWhorter as well as the current tight ends on Texas' roster.

"I like him a lot," said Hills about McWhorter. "He definitely displays a fire, I mean, he stays fired up. He's a great coach and you can tell that just by looking at what he's doing with the tight ends at Texas right now. You know, they have size on them, they're strong and they have great field awareness. So, he's doing a great job with them."

Stay tuned as Texas looks to keep up the heat on the nation's most well rounded tight end. Look for more from IT's conversation with Hills in the next edition of The Inside Texas Inside Scoop.

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