Monday, August 3, 2015

2015 Season Countdown: #27 Delano Hill

Delano Hill
Name: Delano Hill
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 204 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) Cass Tech
Position: Safety
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #44
Last year: I ranked Hill #31 and said he would be a backup safety. He made five starts with 20 tackles and 1 fumble recovery.

It's hard to believe that Hill is already a junior. Much like Ben Gedeon, he seemed like a guy who could use a redshirt year to acclimate to the college game and then make an impact down the road. But last year indeed, he was a true sophomore who played a good chunk of time in the revolving door at safety. Five players made starts at the two safety positions, and injuries were not a major problem except in the case of Jarrod Wilson. The coaching staff simply didn't see anyone separating himself. Hill had an okay year but never stood out as a player, and his biggest impact came when he recovered a fumble against Michigan State.

Jabrill Peppers has moved to safety, and people are pointing to him as the quarterback and potential star of the defense. Unfortunately for Hill, they play roughly the same position. With Wilson starting at one safety and Peppers at the other, Hill should be a sub in nickel packages when Peppers bumps down to slot corner. Michigan will probably spend more than a third of their defensive snaps in the nickel, so Hill should get another big chunk of playing time. The word on Hill is that he's a very good athlete, but I have never seen great instincts or playmaking ability on his part, even when he was in high school. He should have plenty of chances to change our minds this year.

Prediction: Nickel safety; 25 tackles


  1. The guy started as a sophomore, played pretty well, and now there is buzz that he is one of the best players in the secondary (i.e., he seems to be progressing towards his vast physical potential). He's had some injury issues early last year but otherwise he's been talked up since the day he hit campus.

    I'd rank Hill higher and it wouldn't surprise me if he and Wilson were the starting safeties all year long. I get that Thomas and Clark around, but I don't think they are as good. I also get that everyone is assuming Peppers has bumped him aside (not unlike how a year ago when many/most assumed he would bump two of Taylor/Countess/Lewis aside), but Peppers may be used on offense, may be used at corner, or may be limited to nickel packages (which may be the bulk of downs for all we know). Peppers himself argued with being labelled as a safety. Hill doesn't and that's always been the best fit for him. A versatile physically gifted DB who has the speed to stick with receivers and the physicality to thump down on the run game.

    Hill was no wasted red-shirt. He played right away on special teams, did fine there, got his feet wet on D and then started as a sophomore. Sure, it would have been nice, but his development was aided by playing and Michigan needed him to play a significant role as a sophomore.

    Moving forward I see a guy who will push for all-conference honor this year -- and earn them next year. If I had to guess about next season's started safeties they'll be Hill at SS and Peppers at FS (replacing Wilson).

    The only thing keeping Hill out of the top 10 in my eyes is that there are other versatile talents in the secondary, so if he goes down Michigan will manage with guys like Peppers and Lyons having the capability to play either safety or corner. Nonetheless, I think Hill will show to be one of the 10 best football players on this team in 2015.

    1. Even if he plays more than I expect, he has not shown himself to be a difference maker. He has not been head-and-shoulders better than Jeremy Clark, Dymonte Thomas, etc.

    2. That's be nice, and frankly I'd love to see Hill able to start at safety and have Peppers full time at CB with Lewis, but I'm with Thunder here..he just hasn't shown any real playmaking ability. And as we've learned the hard way over the past seven years, "buzz" means nothing.

    3. Agreed but consider that Hill was hurt multiple times last year. In between injuries, he looked better than the other guys. He didn't jump off the screen with highlight after highlight but it seemed like the D executed a little better and the mistakes were less noticeable.

      Brian Cook, Marcus Ray, and Rivals guys have all hyped up Hill and I think there's been enough positives on the field to make it feel legitimate. The buzz from practice has been strong all along. I also wonder if the old coaching didn't have a bias for taller safeties, whereas as Hill is more conventional-sized relative to Thomas and Clark.

      Given the above, I think that Hill will be a difference-maker now that he is healthy.

      I'll admit my views on Hill are speculative, but I like the way things are trending.

    4. Peppers limited to just nickel packages is unlikely. He will be on the field for every defensive snap.

    5. @Anon - I seriously doubt it. The secondary is solid and deep even without him. There might be more pure options who fit at CB, Safety, maybe even nickel than Peppers. Even if there aren't there's some benefit to keeping the DBs fresh.

      Meanwhile who is going to return kicks? Is there anybody worth paying attention to in the WR corps? Obviously Peppers is a special talent, but Michigan has plenty of needs and he can't do it all.

      I think they're going to plug Peppers where he is needed most, and I don't necessarily think that is going to be safety with Wilson and Hill around. His best bet might be a part-time nickel who gets some offensive packages and returns kicks too. Or if a CB gets hurt it might be Woodson Jr time. We'll see...

    6. If the guys at MGo are correct - Peppers isn't going to play a true safety but a "Hybrid Space player" that will be more linebacker/safety in normal sets and corner/LB/safety in the nickel. It sounds like the entire defense is going to be built around the fact that we have a player that can play that role so he isn't coming off the field. Unfortunately it doesn't sound like anyone else on the team can fill that role unless Dymonte suddenly improves his coverage skills.

      On the bright side (for those who like Hill's potential), it sounds like we will be in nickel close to 50% of snaps this year, with Hill replacing a LB in those sets. (Based on the %s from last year.)

    7. @ Lanknows

      If your argument for Hill is that the defense played a little better with him in there, then I would argue that you've landed on the reason why he's ahead of Jeremy Clark, Dymonte Thomas, etc.

      Being labeled as "one of the best players in the secondary" is not particularly noteworthy. There are 4-5 starters in the secondary. He's not better than Lewis, and he's probably not better than Peppers (and although that's conjecture, hyping up Hill is also conjecture). He might not be better than Wilson or Lyons. I'd be happy to have a quality safety at Michigan - which is a rarity - but my guess is that the #3 safety is not going to be a star of the defensive backfield.

    8. @Thunder

      I'm picking up what your putting down. Your argument is objectively sound and more defensible than mine in that it reflects the prevailing assumption about Peppers' role. I'm dubious of that assumption though.

      I view Hill as the #2 safety, and Peppers as more of a utility guy. I don't mean that Peppers is the worse player just that his skills are needed in many places. To make a baseball analogy, Peppers is a closer and Hill is a 4th starter. The starter will throw more innings but the closer is used in limited situations where his skills are especially needed).

      I'm also speculating that Hill's performance will improve with health and a new staff. Thus separating him from Thomas and Clark. We'll see...

      @Mike Sullivan

      The Mgo guys have been wrong on this issue before, so take their Hybrid Space Player talk with a grain of salt. They said almost exactly the same thing about Dymonte Thomas 2 years ago. And, FWIW, the Rivals guys have suggested that Hill, not Peppers, might be the guy lined up in the nickel-hybrid role and that Peppers might be more of the roaming playmaker at safety...which makes some sense if you see Hill as a more physical run-stopping presence and Peppers as a ball-hawk.

      I think Hill will be on the field more than 50% of the time.

  2. Can we marvel at how sweet that Michigan uniform looks? Setting aside the whole adidas/nike discussion for a moment, that winged helmet, white jersery, maize pants, and blue under-gear is the best in all of football. Mr. Hill looks spectacular in that uniform. Great pic.

  3. Any chance that when you're finished with the countdown you will post a complete list 1-90. And maybe at the end of the season you could do a post season list based on actual performance. Could be a cool comparison.

    1. I will post the whole list prior to the season. I've never done a post-season list. I'll think about it. It's a good idea.

    2. Since the rankings are not intended as predictions of production, but rather as importance to the team (as measured by hypothetical loss from the team) I think you'd run into some logical inconsistencies with a post-season rank, but it could be a fun bookend to the season, and a lookback to the rankings.

  4. Some of the Cass Tech guys continue to insist that Delano Hill is the second coming of Bob Sanders ..... only bigger. If that is indeed the case, this the time for the Bob Sanders stuff to start happening.

    I know I'm pulling for him.