Since debuting for the Wolverines in 2019, junior defensive back Daxton Hill has consistently proven that the hype surrounding his recruiting process and decision to join Michigan was far more than mere smoke and mirrors.
At every turn, Hill has looked every bit the former-five star recruit and future top-line draft prospect. His coverage skills, speed, and uncanny ability to find his way to the football unfailingly shone through, even in games during which his fellow defensive backs were being burnt and exposed in former defensive coordinator Don Brown’s man-heavy scheme.
From earning Team Rookie of the Year honors in his freshman season to making the second-most tackles for the Wolverines in his sophomore season, Hill’s trajectory trucked ever-upward throughout the last two seasons. By the time that defensive coordinator Mike McDonald joined in January and defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale followed this May, Hill’s ability had clearly ascended to the point that he was certainly one of the first players that began to pay attention to.
“He’s similar to me,” Clinkscale said with a laugh. “He’s very athletic, he’s long, he’s smart, he’s got great instincts. He’s a very instinctual guy. He feels it, and when you correct him, he’s like ‘Dang, I saw it’ or ‘Ooh, I was working to it.’ He can anticipate what an offense is about to do.
“I think his football IQ is high. He’s kind of a quiet guy, so sometimes you’re not sure if he knows it. But he knows it. He’s sharp with it, and he just goes out and executes. As long as he continues to work hard and we keep adding stuff to his list that he can take, you’ll see his level of play continue to improve.”
Clinkscale’s compliments paint Hill in glowing light, but, after the junior’s performance on Saturday, they appear justified. Hill’s talents were on full display during the Wolverines 47-14 win over Western Michigan Sep. 4.
Hill slid effectively into the nickel position in McDonald’s new scheme, earning a pass breakup while racking up six tackles for a share of the team lead. Hill’s performance stood amongst what was generally a strong performance for Michigan’s defense, earning him both shared Defensive Player of the Week honors and praise from his coaches.
“I think Dax played well, Clinkscale said. “All of the guys can improve on things, but I felt that when we adjusted, Dax really played physical on the perimeter. I think that he’s doing a good job adjusting to playing the nickel.”
Clinkscale satisfaction has not made Hill complacent. Just as the former would hope, the latter still sees room for improvement.
“I feel like I’m doing well with it for it being my first time, but offenses are going to pick up on that really quickly,” Hill said. “So I need to keep changing it up. I need to see what I can do to keep confusing the quarterback. It’s kind of like 50/50 sometimes. I play with it, and sometimes, if the coaches want me to disguise a certain coverage, they’ll want me to line up in it or never line up in it. It depends on who we’re playing.”