Notre Dame football recruiting: LB Hilliard gaining national attention

TYLER JAMES - <a href="http:

Justin Hilliard has spent the start of his summer competing at collegefootball camps.

Earlier in June, the 2015 linebacker visited Ohio State and receivedan offer following the camp. On Monday, Hilliard camped at Michiganwith the same result.

But when Hilliard visits Notre Dame for the Future Stars Camp onFriday, the start of ND's biggest recruiting weekend of the summer,he'll participate with an offer already extended from the Irish.

That offer came last week when Hilliard spoke with head coach BrianKelly and a number of other staff members via video on the FaceTimeapp. The Irish joined an offer list that's ballooned to more than 25before Hilliard's junior season, but it still meant a lot to the studlinebacker.

"They're great academically, and the football speaks for itself," hesaid. "It was pretty cool."

Hilliard, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound prospect from Cincinnati's St. XavierHigh, has earned attention after a sophomore season with 65 tackles,seven sacks and two interceptions. While the Midwest powerhouses ofNotre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan have offered this summer,Hilliard's become a national prospect with offers from Oklahoma, TexasA&M and Arkansas as well.

CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming hasn't ranked the2015 class yet, but Hilliard stood out while Lemming was traveling thecountry this year to scout 2014 talent.

"I love him," Lemming said. "It's good to see Notre Dame get involvedwith Ohio kids early." has Hilliard ranked as the best recruit in Ohio in the2015 class, the No. 4 outside linebacker, and No. 43 overall. At St.Xavier, Hilliard plays a linebacker/safety hybrid position in a 3-3-5defense, a testament to his athletic ability.

In his conversations with the Notre Dame staff, Hilliard said he'slearned that the Irish slate him as an inside linebacker in BobDiaco's 3-4 scheme. Hilliard regularly communicates with defensiveline coach Mike Elston, his regional recruiter, but has also hadconversations with Diaco and Kelly.

Friday will be his first visit to Notre Dame's campus. Coming from aCatholic high school, the same one as Irish senior wide receiver LukeMassa, Hilliard said the religious aspect of Notre Dame intrigues him.

"It helps them a little bit. I think it's pretty cool how they usetheir faith," Hilliard said. "The tradition goes all the way back. Itwould probably be an easier transition."

With a year and a half left until his signing day, Hilliard has hisfocus on several things while visiting campuses. After Friday's visit,he will have an idea on how things will start to unfold with NotreDame for the remainder of his recruitment.

Hilliard's older brother C.J., a 2014 running back prospect, hasalready committed to Iowa and given him a blueprint to follow.

"I have to feel comfortable at the place I play at and I want to win anational championship too," Hilliard said, "so wherever I can find amixture of those to go with academics. That's always important."

Staff writer Tyler James:

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly