LSU have found an effective and potentially explosive passing game this year, but they ultimately want to line up in the I-formation and run the football. Their running back that has led the way for them has been Jeremy Hill. The Bayou Bengals have been aggressive with the passing game and used it for big plays but when they want to control the tempo and pound the football, the running game and Hill have been the way to do it.
Hill is a meat and potatoes power runner that wants to run north and south. His straight line speed is pretty good when he can get going and he can show a little bit of quickness and agility, but will end up taking a few steps to turn and make cuts much of the time. Hill is a decent blocker who can sell and run a slip screen well, but ultimately he is best suited to be a hammer in an NFL offense. There are some off field questions with Hill that need to be answered and fully vetted in the draft process. Hill projects as a third day pick that could be picked anywhere from the top of round four to undrafted depending on what teams find upon further investigation of his background, but he has the talent to be a contributor and potentially find his way into being the lead back for certain offenses.
Vitals & Build
Hill is listed at 6’2” 235lbs with good strength and solid overall speed. His quickness is decent but not spectacular and much depends on how bad he seems to need it in a given situation. Hill has been tough, absorbs contact well and is a bull of a back. Where he goes physically will largely depend on the team that gets him as he could conceivably get even bigger to be a fullback who can also carry the ball or he could remain the same size in the NFL.
Hill is a north-south runner that wants to find the hole as soon as possible and just run downhill and get his momentum going forward as quickly as possible to generate power. For LSU, the holes are clear and they are not asking him to decide on where to read a play and go. They are opening a hole at a specific spot and he is running there, likely behind a fullback.
For the most part, Hill is not asked to make a cut until he gets through the line and to the second level. Whether this is an expressed coaching point in Baton Rouge or just a good habit to make sure they get positive yardage, that seems to be how their running game works.
Hill is at his best running between the tackles, but LSU has found ways to get him to the edge without forcing him to really run laterally and allowing him to keep his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage, which is where he is most effective. Through use of counters and some quick pitches, they get him outside without really working for it and while he is not attacking outside the tackles too often, they are at least pressing different areas of the line.
Hill can run high at times, which can get him in trouble, but he demonstrates good power when he gets his body lean going, can run through tackles and over tacklers. He also has an effective stiff arm he can use to beat up opponents and keep them from getting into his body.
Hill has the ability to make the occasional jump cut that looks pretty good, but he tends to be more subtle in how he cuts. They tend to be more rounded so he does not have to slow down and can keep his speed going forward. While he can make quick cuts when he needs to, it tends to make him really slow down. His explosiveness is pretty good but he always wants to have momentum going forward. Whether it is in the backfield or in the middle of the field, when his legs stop churning, he goes down easily.
Hill has a good nose for the end zone and short yardage, but needs to never try to jump into the end zone. When he does that, he is helping his opponents out because his power and strength stops and he is just weight. He is far better served just getting low, leaning forward and churning his legs.
Hill can be a bell cow type back that can take a lot of carries and wear opponents down as the game progresses. He can be a big time closer in the fourth quarter when protecting a lead and wearing on the clock against a tired defense. Hill does a good job of avoiding lost yardage and is consistently able to get yardage, which is attractive for teams who want a back that can allow them to control the tempo and have long drives.
His height and the fact he can run high can be problematic, but that has really not shown up much in college. That could become a bigger issue when he gets to the NFL and they can play stronger and lower, so he needs to always work to stay low and have better leverage. Hill is not fooling anyone with what he brings to a team and he is coming in to do what he does; give him the ball and he is going to go fight for yardage.
Route Running & Technique
Hill has not been asked to run much of a route tree. It does not mean he cannot do it, but he just has not. And at his size and agility, that is not terribly surprising. What he does well is selling and setting up screens. LSU likes to use slip screens but they have run more traditional screens and Hill has a great sense of how to sell it to open it up and set himself up for success with many of the bigger defenders already behind him.
Hill has not been asked to do much in terms of catching passes away from his body, but he does catch the ball with his hands naturally. It does not look difficult or awkward for him. He catches it like he is taking a pitch.
Hill does a good job of blocking in pass protection and makes it look relatively easy. For the most part, Hill tends to be an extension of fan blocking and protects against the outside rush. He gets a good anchor, sets himself well and absorbs power, but is in position to slide if he needs to do it. He is able to move up and pick up a block in the middle of the line if needed.
The best system for Hill has a fullback and is just looking to attack downhill. Hill should be fine in a single back system as long as they are just giving him a hole and telling him to go hit it. Initially, Hill looks like he is suited to be part of a stable of backs that gives them a hammer in certain situations but can also be a hot hand at times as well as a fourth quarter closer. If he gets hot, he is the type of back who can keep getting the ball and just keep churning out yards for an offense.
Hill’s game could be similar to that of Toby Gerhart of the Minnesota Vikings. Gerhart was a power back at Stanford that has been buried on the depth chart behind Adrian Peterson but when he gets opportunities, he is a downhill runner who is going to get yardage and fight for yardage in between the tackles. Both he and Hill have some straight line speed but they are looking to keep their shoulders square to the line and punish opponents.
Jeremy Hill is a big back who enjoys punishing opponents with power and has enough speed where if he has an opening he can make them pay for it. He can block in the passing game and do enough as a pass catcher to be interesting. There are going to be questions about his character and off the field issues that could have an impact on where he goes in the draft. Overall, Hill projects as a third day pick that could be a nice complementary back but could end up being a pretty good back in the NFL if he can stay out of trouble.
Some of the film used for this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com