As Hokie Nation fretted over the recruitment of blue chip defensive end prospects like Josh Sweat and Jalen Dalton, I was vocal that Tech already had the most productive, ready to play defensive end in Virginia already committed. Virginia Beach's Trevon Hill, a 6-4 220 pound defensive end from Salem High School, committed to the Hokies over North Carolina early in the recruiting cycle. Hill was rated as the as a four-star weakside defensive end and the 12th best recruit in Virginia by 247Sports, but he seems to have been overlooked by many Hokies after not finishing his senior season enrolled at Salem High school. As a junior, Hill was named first team VHSL All State after a 23 sack performance.
Defensive end is a showcase position in Bud Foster's defense, but it has been challenging for the Hokies to build depth at d-end even though Charley Wiles likes to rotate two defensive line groups. In 2013, James Gayle and J.R. Collins were spelled almost exclusively by Dadi Nicolas, while in 2014 there was a significant dropoff in productivity between the first group of Ken Ekanem and Nicolas to Dwayne Alford and Seth Dooley.The status quo will be less ideal once Nicolas using up his eligibility after this season.
Despite the veteran presence of Dooley and Alford, I expect Trevon Hill to immediately contend for a spot in the two-deep, most likely playing behind Dadi Nicolas at stud defensive end. The stud defensive end lines up over the right offensive tackle, and often plays covered up with a tight end. The stud is often the most talented Hokie defensive end, and the position requires the ability to contain and fight off blocks when playing on the strong side. Unlike many pass-rushing high school defensive ends that align wide and run around the edge with speed, Hill has experience playing as a 3-4 defensive end aligned on the inside shoulder of the offensive tackle. That experience will be invaluable as Foster puts tremendous pressure on the stud end to beat blockers without losing gap control.
If pressed to describe Hill's highlight film, three words come to mind: productive, polished, and aggressive. Hill's highlight reel is close to 8 minutes long of playmaking. He is solid against the run and the pass. He plays multiple roles, and when asked to be a decoy he completes his assignments responsibly. He makes big plays at big moments, most notably a crashing play against a quarterback sneak that forces a goal line fumble as the opposition is poised to score a touchdown. Unlike Sweat, Hill didn't have other FBS-caliber talent around him on defense, yet he was still productive.
I am most impressed with Hill's polish. Hill utilizes leverage techniques like hand slaps, rip moves, and swim moves like a seasoned pro. When you watch film of Hill versus a top recruit like Ken Ekanem, Hill is already well advanced from a technique perspective. This first play on his tape showcases Hill's electric swim move to the inside.
Throughout his tape, Hill seems to love using a rip move to beat offensive tackles through their inside shoulder. This is effective against the run and the pass, and once he gets an angle past the blocker, Hill is excellent at bending his body to get square with the offensive player who has the football. Coach Foster places a premium on his defensive ends to bend to take advantage of penetration at the point of attack, pursue flat down the line of scrimmage from the back side, or pressure the quarterback without opening up a lane for him to scramble.
Here, Hill is aligned as a five-technique. He rips hard inside the tackle and beats the guard trying to reach him on an outside zone play.
Once he penetrates, he squares himself and moves back to the outside to meet the running back head on. This is stellar run defense.
Hill's technique is strong, and he bends his body incredibly well, but I think fans will be endeared to his style of play because of how he throws himself into tackles, much like Dadi Nicolas. Hill has long arms and when trying to make a tackle where he doesn't have a great angle, you will often see Hill leap and throw his arms like logs on top of the quarterback's shoulders to drag him down. You will see Hill's legs flailing around as his body weight drags down the passer. Here are a couple of great examples where technique and bend meet tenacity for great plays.
On this play, he beats the tackle with a little outside lean fake and then rip back inside. He hurls his body at the quarterback, but the quarterback gets away. Hill doesn't give up on the play and gets up to chase him down.
Check out Hill's potential as an edge rusher. Because he is playing inside, he uses an outside-leverage bull-rush so he can keep contain responsibility. Once he clears the blocker, he bends hard back to the inside to chase down the quarterback as he steps up in the pocket.
The Hokies have had many fast pass rushing ends that could get up field in a hurry. The great ones were the guys who could get to that edge and then turn the corner as quarterbacks stepped up in the pocket. In 2013, when the Hokies struggled mightily against running quarterbacks, one of the primary problems were the defensive ends (primarily James Gayle, who we now know was competing with a badly injured shoulder) getting pushed past the pocket after good initial pressure. Hill has the ability to bend his body and capitalize on that speed rush.
I really wish Hill could have been an early enrollee. He is a kid that could use some good weight (with his frame he looks like he could play around 240 without losing any of his quickness) and the one area I found where Hill needs to improve is his explosiveness off the snap. A spring with Coach Gentry in the weight room and doing resistance spring and shuttle work would have benefited Hill tremendously. Spring practice would have also given Hill an opportunity to learn the nuance of Coach Foster's often counter-intuitive defensive front movements and techniques. That being said, barring a significant improvement by Dooley and Alford, I fully expect Hill to make the two-deep this season and he will be expected to make an impact.