Hilliard’s visit to Notre Dame all business

South Bend Tribune

The timing couldn’t have worked out better for Notre Dame.

On his last visit to South Bend before making a decision, 2015 linebacker Justin Hilliard witnessed Notre Dame’s biggest recruiting weekend of the summer.

The five-star prospect from Cincinnati already attended a game in Notre Dame Stadium. He already toured Notre Dame’s facilities. He even previously received a campus tour on a golf cart with head coach Brian Kelly.

So the Irish tried to show him something new Friday.

Hilliard and his father arrived on campus Friday evening with a visit highlighted by a meeting with a business professor and another ride on Kelly’s golf cart.

“It was mostly academic,” Hilliard said of the visit. “That was a big part of it. I got a good chance to talk with one of the business professors, and he talked about his love for the school and why he loves business. That was really cool.”

Before Friday’s camp, Kelly took Hilliard to The Grotto, a spot they didn’t visit on his last trip to campus. Then they headed to the practice fields for the Irish Invasion.

“That was awesome,” Hilliard said. “I got to see guys compete. It looked pretty fun. They even had a DJ. I thought that was funny.”

Hilliard didn’t participate in the camp. He spent the majority of the time talking to other recruits while watching. He spent time with defensive line commits Elijah Taylor and Brandon Tiassum and caught up with fellow recruiting targets Austin Bryant, Tevon Coney and Jacques Patrick.

Fellow Ohioan Shaun Crawford, an Irish cornerback commit, talked to him more than anyone else. Hilliard enjoyed watching Crawford dominate in drills, giving him a good look at a potential teammate.

“I was mostly watching the linebackers, but I did see him in one-on-ones,” Hilliard said. “He had at least two picks. I thought that was impressive.”

Following the camp, Hilliard hung out with current linebackers Jaylon Smith, Michael Deeb and Nyles Morgan as part of his overnight visit.

Hilliard left Saturday morning to make one last overnight visit to Ohio State. Hilliard previously expressed plans to hold a commitment announcement before the end of the month, but a specific date has yet to be solidified. It may not come until early July, Hilliard said.

The anticipation will build for the player ranked as the No. 1 outside linebacker prospect in the country and No. 13 overall according to 247Sports. Rivals ranks him as the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 49 overall.

Hilliard also has Iowa, Michigan and Alabama in his top five schools, but it appears a two-team race between the Irish and Buckeyes. As a decision nears, both fanbases will look for clues on which way he’s leaning, but Hilliard remains non-partial publicly.

The looniest of recruitniks will point to Hilliard’s 16 shamrocks in a tweet about his Notre Dame visit as an advantage over the 14 red block O’s in his Ohio State tweet Saturday. Soon enough, recruiting followers won’t have to resort to counting emojis.

In the coming weeks, Hilliard will make a verbal commitment to the school of his choice, and then fans will switch their counting to days until he signs in February. ¦ 574-235-6214 ¦ Twitter: @TJamesNDI

2015 linebacker target Justin Hilliard talks with Brian Kelly during Irish Invasion football camp on Friday, June 20, 2014, at Notre Dame. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)