The next player in our <i>Countdown to Camp</i> series is the first look at an undrafted rookie trying to make the 2004 roster. Does former Notre Dame defensive tackle Cedric Hilliard fit into the Cowboys' longterm plans?
Cedric Hilliard was a two-year starter at Notre Dame who accumulated 27 tackles as a senior after 21 the prior year. Named as a 3rd team preseason All-America by Athlon and the 6th best defensive tackle in the nation by The Sporting News before his senior year.
As an undrafted free agent, Cedric Hilliard has his work cut out for him to make the 53-man regular season roster. A nagging ankle injury limited his effectiveness last season, and likely cost him being selected in the 2004 NFL Draft.
The Arlington, Texas native was disappointed that he wasn't drafted last month. "It was definitely disappointing not being drafted," Hilliard told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. "I wanted to be drafted. But the big thing for me is I want to play football on the NFL level. And I am excited about coming to Dallas. I've called a lot of my friends and said, 'I'm coming home.'"
Hilliard is an explosive interior lineman best suited on the nose. He quickly gets off the ball with a great first step, effectively uses hand technique to keep opponents off him, and has a burst of closing speed bearing down on the play. He pursues well laterally, resilient and keeps coming. He also plays with good fundamentals, getting leverage on opponents.
Hilliard is an instinctive defender that offers a good amount of upside and can effectively be used as either a nose tackle or a three technique lineman. The Cowboys could certainly utilize his talents whenver they line up in a 3-4 scheme this year.
A hard working defending that shows up on game day, Hilliard combines great explosion and natural strength to make plays against the ball carrier. As an undrafted free agent, his chances at making the 53-man roster are slim, but insiders suggest that he could become a valuable asset on the practice squad.