Scout v. Scout: Kylin Hill's Vision

Photo: © Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

If you listened to the latest Locked On NFL Draft podcast -- which, if you didn't, we are sworn enemies -- you know that Trevor and I disagreed a fair bit on Kylin Hill, the rising junior for Mississippi State. A violent and springy runner, Hill is an exciting player to watch slash into linebacker and grind out tough yardage.

But Trevor and I fell on different sides of the debate when it came to Hill's decision-making and vision. I wanted to suss that conversation out a little further, with some film clips to help illustrate where Hill needs more patience and better decision-making processes, and those areas in which I think he's already showing pro promise.

First, in Trevor's own words: he wrote a blurb on Kylin Hill I wanted to share.

Kylin Hill passes the eye test with flying colors. Right when you look at this guy – standing about 5-foot-11, 215 pounds – you can tell that he is going to be a tough task to bring down. With that body frame, Hill likes to get physical. He likes to be the one to initiate contact and be the aggressor when it comes to yards at the sticks. But I think that too often he is searching for contact instead of searching for green grass.
Hill has an urgency about him to go straight north and get up the field. You like that in the sense that he’s not going to dance around and lose you yards, but I feel like too many times I saw him run into even his own lead blockers because of a lack of patience. That’s what I need to see from Hill, but I will admit that it is hard for guys who have such a violent running style by nature to take that step back and slow the game down.
Hill was just a sophomore last season, so perhaps a year under his belt and the time to go back and watch his film could allow him to run with more patience to his game. Physicality in the form of strength and speed is good, and those elements definitely exists with Hill’s game. But you have to be able to navigate chaos and find the green grass. That’s the next step for Hill, and what’s currently hold him back from reaching the top conversation of this very good running back class.

I'm certainly willing to agree with Trevor on some of these topics -- especially in the open field, it seems that Hill lacks elusive traits, and would rather go headhunting on a smaller defensive back than make him miss and bust open a long touchdown run.

Trevor cites Hill's lack of patience as a big concern of his -- and I'll be the first to admit that Hill is an urgent, vertical runner. I pulled this run from his Ole Miss film as an example:

Hill takes the ball on this variation off the DUO or DBL concept, which features two double teams (C and RG; LT and LG) while leaving the linebackers unblocked. The running back, on DUO concept plays, is tasked with reading the paths of the linebackers and making them wrong -- ideally, the back draws the linebackers into the gaps left by the double teams, only to spring outside of them and attack the D-gap.

Here, Hill is quick to burrow. He elects almost immediately to take the space afforded to him by the slow-playing linebackers, getting quick and dirty yardage for only an average gain.

This isn't necessarily a bad strategy, but there is that nagging question: could Hill have better manipulated the second-level defenders with some head fakes or jump cuts? He's explosive -- so why not challenge them to outrun him to the corner on the outside?

Critically, there are examples of Hill executing this concept on film. Against Auburn, Ole Miss had a similar DUO concept dialed up, and you can see how Hill's vertical path suckers the linebackers down into the line of scrimmage, and how that allows him to bounce outside for a chunk gain.

The offensive line gets a generally better push on this concept, but Hill's decision-making process and path are better executed, and he's able to capitalize on his slasher running style by knifing into the second level and picking up some good yards after contact.

DUO is often called "power without a puller," because it's a man-blocking scheme that doesn't use pulling offensive linemen to create reads for the back. The back isn't just attacking one gap in DUO, however -- he has multiple options -- whereas in a concept like basic power, the back is often reading off of one block.

Take this power concept against Auburn as an example. Hill is reading the puller, who will ideally kick out the strongside linebacker so Hill can plant his foot, turn vertical, and shoot upfield. That's exactly what happens here -- notice how the right tackle turns the DT to the inside, so the pulling guard has room to get upfield and kick out the closing linebacker.

This is an easy read, but it's the right one -- and the path and timing are both sound. Auburn's weakside players do a good job scraping for cleanup, but Hill was close to busting this thing into the third level.

If the pulling guard is unable to kick out the linebacker -- say, for example, that linebacker was shooting the gap -- then he can log the linebacker by flipping his hips and turning the linebacker inside. Hill is responsible for reading this block and bouncing to the outside, making his own yardage by attacking secondary players, who are often inconsistent tacklers.

Once again, Hill makes the correct read, though his lack of elusive traits again show up when he has one man to beat. This conversation bleeds further into the ideas of anticipation and timing than it does remain grounded in our discussion on vision -- Hill needs to better anticipate that blitz and the subsequent space it will create, and get to the corner faster so as to break into the open field.

There certainly are question marks about Hill's patience behind the line of scrimmage and then his urgency in space -- he's a heat-seeking missile at times, and that leaves some meat on the bone when it comes to hidden yardage. But Hill does demonstrate a sound decision-making process on multiple different concepts. Hopefully with another year of experience, he can iron out his inconsistencies and develop a better instinct for space and timing. It's critical for his evaluation moving forward.