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Justice Hill Scouting Report: Debut of Strength Shows Against Tulsa



Justice Hill carried the ball 15 times on Thursday against Tulsa. Remarkably, he was about a yard away from averaging a first down on each of those touches.

Hill was more of an artist than a running back in Game 1. It was thrilling to watch his crisp, yet fluid style. One second he was stiff arming a defensive end, then he was shaking a linebacker. Hill finished with 132 yards. Almost 9 a touch. An unambiguously elite performance.

There seemed to be a rhythm to Hill’s play against the Golden Hurricane. And there was most certainly a pattern. Let’s take a look.


Although former actual bear Aaron Cochran was brought in from California to stabilize the left tackle spot on the Cowboys’ offensive line, Hill found better results behind comfort.

Yurcich called just three runs to the left, and though one of them resulted in a score that was capped with a heavy right shoulder at the pylon, those three carries yielded only 2 yards. The first play of the game went for none, and then he was later dropped for a loss of one.

The breakdown of Hill’s directional running favored the right but especially the center of the field.

Zach Crabtree was the leader off the right edge, as he has been for the past three seasons. And Brad Lundblade was the captain up the middle, starting at center for just as long. Hill did bump a few runs out to the left after breaking through the first level of the defense, but the majority of his success was toward the other sideline.


Hill gained about 15 pounds during the offseason, and though he said he didn’t feel a difference, we saw a huge one. From his second carry of the game, a dive up the middle, it was clear his burst wasn’t gone despite the gains. This cut, his first of 2o17, put the Tulsa defender on a Slip ‘N Slide.

Then on the Cowboys’ second series, Hill received two draws. The first showed the speed. Watch how quickly he gets to the second level of the defense here.

The second showed the new No. 5.

Here is the reverse angle on that one.

A couple of things. First, last season’s No. 27 would have been dropped after a few yards. Second, he would have tried to either spin off the tackle or bounce it outside. And third, if you don’t believe that, here are the first two plays from the 2016 Valero Alamo Bowl.

The stiff arm within the tackles was nonexistent last year unless it was coming from Chris Carson. But it wasn’t only the upper-body strength that was in showcase. Hill definitely didn’t skip leg day, either.

Exhibit B.

Again, that is not to say Hill has lost his lateral quickness. His touchdown was a perfect example.

This is trademark Justice. Mason Rudolph actually hands the ball off to his right. The run was designed to go off-tackle to Zach Crabtree’s right with Britton Abbott in front. It didn’t. The defensive end crashed inside, but Crabtree didn’t create a big enough pocket, and Abbott was a wash with the linebacker.

Brad Lundblade got pushed back a step, and Hill shuffled back and left in one move, all while keeping his momentum. The most impressive part is the acceleration after the cut. It is remarkable.

Pass Protection

Before Thursday’s eventual beatdown, coach Mike Gundy said true freshman J.D. King was far better at protecting Mason Rudolph than Hill.

It showed.

There might not be a better example of it than the first play of OSU’s third offensive drive, an out route to Marcell Ateman that went 49 yards.

That pass should have been picked off, but if Hill stays with the inside blitzer rather than bouncing to the defender coming around the edge, it’s a much easier pass. That being said, that might have been a mix-up with Cochran more than any fault of Hill’s.

Other than that one play, Hill was involved in pass protection two other times. He did well, but Rudolph had the ball out in less than two seconds each time.


Hill looked like a completely different back at times, and that is a credit to him, the offensive line, which seemed fairly improved, and maybe offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich most of all. Although Hill doesn’t excel in pass protection, Yurcich used him in screen options, flare routes, circle routes, floods and play actions.

While Rudolph was in at quarterback, Hill took 24 more snaps than King, had nine more carries and 37 more yards, but King was involved in more pass protection packages. Luckily for OSU: King can run it, so it’s not a dead giveaway for a pass when he comes in.

It was just Tulsa, but Hill looked like a sure-fire All-Big 12 selection and a definite contender to earn a spot on the All-American team. His explosiveness was spectacular, and his strength evident on multiple runs as well as pass-blocking situations.

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