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Thursday, May 2, 2013
RB Hilliman entertains defending champs

By Greg Ostendorf

It's been a busy week for running back Jonathan Hilliman (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter's). Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Pittsburgh are all among the schools who have been by to evaluate him.

What are the coaches looking for when they visit the 6-foot-1, 202-pound back?

"They're keying on maturity," Hilliman said. "I've been working on my maturity level as a running back, as a player, since my freshman year. Everybody pretty much knows my physical aspects. They just want to see how I've matured in the mental side of the game."

On Wednesday, the defending national champions were on hand to see Hilliman. University of Alabama assistant coach Mario Cristobal made the trip from Tuscaloosa to New Jersey.

"That was pretty big," Hilliman said. "It's not every day where the No. 1 team in the country, undisputedly, comes to watch you practice. That's a pretty big deal for any aspiring football player."

After practice, Hilliman was able to call Cristobal and discuss the visit as well as his budding interest in the Crimson Tide.

"We talked on the phone about how I feel about Alabama, which I feel pretty good about their running style and their offense and all that, and we talked about a potential visit," Hilliman said.

"Alabama is one of the teams that will crack my top five, and I've definitely thought about when I'll go down to Tuscaloosa, take a visit and see what the big fuss is about."

The UA coaches haven't sugar coated the running back situation on campus. The Crimson Tide signed four ESPN 150 running backs in 2013, and they're heavily invested in the No. 1 player for 2014, running back Leonard Fournette.

Still, Hilliman is one of the top players on their board for this recruiting cycle.

"I'm one of the top backs in the 2014 class that they're recruiting," he said. "I know there's going to be a lot of competition. Alabama gets the best athletes. It's the best program. Obviously, there's going to be a lot of competition. I expect that going in. But they give it to me straight. There's no beating around the bush, which I really, really respect."

In addition to Alabama, Hilliman says he wants to take official visits to both Michigan and Ohio State. He also mentioned Boston College, Rutgers and Vanderbilt as possibilities for the other two trips.

As for Cristobal, he checked in on two junior college offensive lineman while in the Northeast this week. On Wednesday, he made a stop in Pennsylvania to see Jermaine Eluemunor, and Thursday, he was in New York to look at Chad Mavety.