September 11, 2008

Hilliard Hesitant with Willingham's Future Unknown

Punahou High School's Dalton Hilliard is one of the more highly sought after running backs in the nation. The 6-foot-0, 190-pound prospect, who's rated as the 19th all-purpose back in the nation by Rivals.com, holds offers from the likes of Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Stanford and Washington among others.

"Recruiting has been going great. I'm getting ready to schedule official visits. I'm trying to confirm some of them sometime this week, as soon as I get the dates of the home games from some of the coaches," explained Hilliard. "Right now, I know for sure I'm going to take visits to Nebraska, Colorado and Stanford. My other two official visits will be between Arizona, UCLA, Cal and Washington - I don't know which ones right now. I'm sending some tape out to UCLA and Cal in the next week."

Hilliard maintains a top four, in no particular order, of Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska and Stanford.

"Those are the schools that I know for sure want me to go to their school. I'm trying to narrow my list down to a top six in terms of the schools that I mentioned, but I can't really say right now who's my top school," said Hilliard. "At different times, I put different schools at the top, because they are all recruiting me harder at different times. Nebraska is recruiting me the hardest right now. I get the most handwritten letters and e-mails from them."

Washington's chances with Hilliard are being hindered with the uncertainty of Head Coach Tyrone Willingham's future with the Huskies. Willingham entered the 2008 under much scrutiny, and two losses to open the season haven't helped the situation.

"It's tough, because you don't know how stable the program is right now," expressed Hilliard. "I'm going to have to talk with Coach Willingham, to see where the program stands and see if there's some stability."

If Willingham's future at Montlake wasn't in question, Hilliard says the Dawgs would be in better contention for his services.

"I definitely think they would move up on my list, because I really like Coach Willingham. I couldn't tell you exactly where they would be on my list, but I know they would move up," explained Hilliard. "He seems like an awesome guy and an awesome coach to play for. I'd love to play for him, because he's a great coach. But I want to make sure he's going to be there if I play there. It's just something that I'm going to have to talk to him about. I'm going to have to ask him questions deep into the season."

However, Washington has made sure to keep in contact with Hilliard as of late.

"Washington has been talking to me through e-mail. I've also got a couple of calls from Coach Willingham. I've also talked to Coach [Chris] Tormey, I've been in contact with him a lot," explained Hilliard. "I got a letter from them last week right before we left for Washington. They gave me a home game schedule to see how it fits with my schedule."

Hilliard feels that UCLA and Cal will probably be the next schools to come to plate with an offer. And oddly enough, Washington was one of the first schools to contact Hilliard, but one of the last to offer. However, Hilliard doesn't look at that in a negative light.

"I believe UCLA is probably the next closest program to offer, and after that would be Cal. I've been receiving a lot of mail from both schools, so I think they might offer me within the next month," explained Hilliard. "Washington and Colorado were the first schools to send me letters. Washington offered me in June, and was the tenth school to offer me, but I definitely don't think that's a bad thing. I think they were getting to know me. They were really into the process of recruiting me, instead of just throwing out an offer. I was in contact with them, so I knew what was going on. It didn't really bother me. As I get deeper into the recruiting process, I want to make sure I make the right choice by sticking with them."

Hilliard recently had the chance to visit Washington last week when Punahou High competed in the Emerald City Kickoff Classic.

"We took a campus tour of Washington. It was nice, I liked it a lot. We started off on the east side of the campus and worked our way up to the library - it's a huge library," exclaimed Hilliard. "I saw the fountain with the backdrop of Mt. Rainier - I really like that view, it was really cool. My teammates took a bunch of pictures."

That was actually the second time that Hilliard participated in the Emerald City Kickoff Classic.

"It was awesome," exclaimed Hilliard of his second go-around. "Me and couple of my teammates got to do it during our sophomore year. Even though it was our second time, it seemed even better. We had new NIKE uniforms. We also had the premier game at eight o'clock - the lights shining down on you, it was awesome. I was fortunate enough to have my family there, so it was awesome to play in front of them."

All schools are recruiting Hilliard as an all-purpose running back, while Arizona and Colorado have also discussed the possibility of playing slot receiver or defensive back. Hilliard would prefer to play running back, but doesn't mind where he plays in the end.

"I don't really have a preference, I just really want to play," said Hilliard. "I feel more comfortable at running back, because it's what I've played throughout my high school career. But if they need me at defensive back, I can put my ego aside and do what they need me to do."

Wherever he goes, Dalton will bring great athleticism, sporting a 4.47 40-yard dash and 36" vertical.

"I think I'm a space running back. I really like creating in space - let me make somebody miss. The strength of my game is making people miss," expressed Hilliard. "I got to work with a personal trainer this summer, and he really worked on my lower body strength, so I can run through people. Last year, I was a lot more weak in terms of body strength. But now, the other part of my game is being able to get a few extra yards in terms of running through people and finishing the run."

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