Justin Hill Says He Feels Comfortable with Ohio State's Plan for Him at the Jack Position if He Comes to Columbus

By Garrick Hodge on June 20, 2024 at 10:10 am
Justin Hill

In between sessions of Ohio State’s high school 7-on-7 tournament Tuesday, Justin Hill was sporting a Buckeyes beanie.

In June. In 91-degree weather. 

Why? Because he says it actually made the hot temperatures more bearable. 

“It’s actually kinda cooling things for me,” the four-star 2025 pass rusher said while laughing when asked why he’d wear a beanie in such a warm climate. “I don’t know why.” 

Weirdly, it’s a similar parallel to how he’s handling his recruitment. Hill’s recruitment is in the home stretch, with only one official visit remaining before he’ll eventually announce a decision on July 3 between Ohio State, Alabama, USC and Oregon. The final few weeks could be akin to a heat wave of anxiety and stress about finding the right fit for some, yet Hill remains cool-headed as ever as he carefully evaluates his options.  

Ohio State certainly hopes the Winton Woods product opts to stay in-state, as the Buckeyes have been actively recruiting him for more than a year. Hill, the No. 72 overall prospect and the No. 7 edge rusher in the 2025 class per 247Sports’ composite rankings, has made visits to OSU, USC and Alabama over the last three weekends.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound prospect’s recruitment with the Buckeyes has been anything but conventional, as four different defensive coaches have taken turns recruiting him and building a rapport with him. Most of that is because defensive coordinator Jim Knowles envisions Hill playing the Jack, a position he hasn’t utilized much in his two-year tenure with the Buckeyes. With that essentially being a linebacker/edge pass rusher hybrid, Knowles enlisted Larry Johnson, James Laurinaitis and even Tim Walton to help make pitches to Hill during his OSU official visit.

“I got to see all the different ways I could get coached by coach Laurinaitis, coach Larry Johnson, coach Knowles and coach Tim Walton since we have a pretty good relationship with him being an Ohio recruiting guy,” Hill said Tuesday. “I feel like that was a big part, just seeing all the perspectives I could get developing me at the next level as a football player and as a man. The scheme I feel like is a fit, I take a lot of pride in being versatile in my game. Just seeing how they view me was big for sure.” 

There was some hesitation on Hill’s part about the Buckeyes’ pitch to play him as a Jack before the visit just because he hadn’t seen a template of that plan executed much in the previous two years. But after a frank conversation with Knowles, Hill felt at peace with what his role would be in Columbus if he eventually commits to Ohio State.

“A lot of it was coach Knowles really got brought over to Ohio State for that Jack position and that playstyle,” Hill said. “He said he hasn’t got that prototype to really do it here yet, plus they also have J.T. and Jack Sawyer who are the best defensive end duo in probably the country. So, it makes sense why they haven’t done it. I had a little confusion going into the visit like were they going to go straight into the Jack, how do they plan to use all that type of stuff? I got a lot of clarity. Talking a lot of ball helped me see that.” 

More specifically, Knowles showed Hill examples of the Jack position dating back to his tenure at Duke and Oklahoma State. They also showed some examples from Sawyer playing the position as a freshman sparingly. 

“They’ve also ran it practice-wise with C.J. Hicks,” Hill said. “So he showed me film like that so I got to see how the position was played and how you can attack the other side of the ball.”

In the final weeks of his recruitment, Hill says Alabama, Ohio State and Oregon have all made strong pushes to land him. He’ll visit the Ducks this weekend for his final official visit of the summer and then take some time to decide on a school before publicly announcing his commitment at 1 p.m. July 3.

While OSU feels confident about where it stands with Hill at the moment, he hasn‘t yet made his decision. The Buckeyes will face fierce opposition from their competitors in their efforts to keep the star pass rusher home.

“I’m just trying to find that home vibe,” Hill said of what he’s searching for in the final stretch of his recruitment. “It’s more like a gut feeling to me. I feel like all the places I’ve cut it down to will help develop me into a great football player. But I just need to find that home vibe with somewhere that I can see myself at for the next couple of years.”

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