Justin Hill gives Alabama football big recruiting win in Ohio State's backyard

Alabama’s summer recruiting momentum continued on Wednesday when the Crimson Tide added four-star prospect Justin Hill, the No. 4 edge rusher and No. 58 overall player in the 247Sports Composite. His commitment comes a day after Alabama landed four-star tight end Kaleb Edwards.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Hill, from Cincinnati’s Winton Woods High School, chose Alabama over in-state Ohio State, long considered the favorite in his recruitment, plus Oregon and USC.

Hill is an ascending player who has improved in each year of varsity football. He recorded 42 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as a sophomore, and last year as a junior he had 36 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and two forced fumbles. Hill’s high school tape shows a compilation of skills required to play the “wolf” position at Alabama: rushing the passer, creating havoc against the run and being a factor in coverage by batting down passes.

“That hybrid position, it’s hard to find a guy that can do all those things and not have to personnel him on and off the field,” Winton Woods coach Chad Murphy said. “He can do all of those and he’s the same guy.”

Additionally, Winton Woods deploys him as an off-ball linebacker at times. With his frame, there’s a chance that a move to inside linebacker could be in play, which has been the case for current Alabama players like Jihaad Campbell and Jeremiah Alexander.

What Hill’s commitment means for Alabama

Hill officially visited Alabama during the June 14 weekend, which is proving to be one of the most impactful to date. He’s the fourth commitment to come out of that weekend, joining offensive lineman Jackson Lloyd, defensive lineman London Simmons and kicker Alex Asparuhov. Now, Alabama has players committed from 10 states: Ohio, Alabama, California, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Hill is the 22nd commitment in Alabama’s class, which is ranked No. 2 in the 247Sports Composite — behind only Ohio State. With Hill aboard, Alabama has seven top-100 players committed and 18 blue-chip prospects (four- or five-star recruits), which is tied for the most in the country with the Buckeyes.

New outside linebackers coach Christian Robinson has done a nice job in his initial recruiting cycle on staff, securing two top-75 prospects in Hill and Dawson Merritt (the No. 62 overall player) to a unit that will have only one definitive departure after this season in senior Quandarrius Robinson. Considering there’s junior Keanu Koht, redshirt freshmen Yhonzae Pierre and Qua Russaw and true freshmen Noah Carter and Jayshawn Ross on the roster, there’s a legitimate case for the newly formed “wolf” position has the biggest concentration of recruiting pedigree on the roster. — Kennington Smith III, Alabama beat writer

What this means for Ohio State

Ohio State hasn’t been on the losing end of many high-profile recruitments this cycle, but missing out on Hill will sting.

The Buckeyes have had elite in-state talent locked down and thought they had a strong shot with Hill, who’s ranked No. 4 in Ohio. Hill was expected to be a key piece of Larry Johnson’s big defensive line class. Instead, Ohio State will go looking elsewhere to fill that void, though replacing him as the player best suited for the “jack” position in this class won’t be easy. Ohio State has had Hill high on its priority list for years, and it wasn’t enough.

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t kill Ohio State’s class. It’s still the top-ranked group in the country with 10 top-100 recruits. The Buckeyes have commitments already from Zion Grady and Zahir Mathis, both top-10 edge rushers. This loss, though, means Ohio State needs to hit on a few other defensive linemen.

Four-star Damien Shanklin is the 10th-ranked edge rusher in the class and will choose between Alabama, Ohio State and LSU on July 5. After that, all eyes will turn to five-star linebacker Riley Pettijohn. The Texas native will announce his decision on July 6, choosing between Ohio State, USC, Texas and Texas A&M.

Ohio State still has a chance to finish off this class in a strong way, but after breaking into Alabama and landing a few elite defensive recruits, the Tide flipped the script and raided Ohio. Losing an elite in-state pass rusher is not going to be an easy pill to swallow. — Cameron Teague Robinson, Ohio State beat writer

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(Photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today)

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