Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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40 JANUARY 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY MIKE SINGER Notre Dame's hot streak on the re- cruiting trail continued Dec. 7 when it landed a pledge from Portsmouth (Va.) Churchland class of 2023 athlete Bran- dyn Hillman. The 6-1, 190-pounder picked the Fighting Irish over fellow fi- nalists Kentucky, North Carolina, USC and Virginia Tech. "The tradition of Notre Dame and how they're a powerhouse academi- cally and in football," Hillman said when asked why he committed to the Irish. "It's a great school in general; there's nothing bad you can say about it. "The coaching staff played a big role. They kept in touch with me, and I knew that if they took all that time to invest in me then it might be the best place to be." Heading into his senior season, Hill- man's only scholarship offer was from nearby FCS program Norfolk State. He mainly played quarterback for his team, but once early senior season film of him playing safety trickled out, Power Five colleges started taking notice. Virginia Tech offered Sept. 27. The following day, Boston College, Virginia, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, East Carolina and Notre Dame came in with scholar- ships. Kentucky and Tennessee offered the next day. North Carolina, Oklahoma and USC also extended offers to him in the fall. Hillman took an official visit to Notre Dame for the weekend of the Stanford game in October, and a few weeks later he went to Kentucky for another offi- cial. Shortly after his trip to Lexington, Ky., Hillman called the Fighting Irish staff to inform them of his decision. He first contacted Notre Dame director of recruiting Chad Bowden on a FaceTime video call. "Chad was pumped," Hillman said with a laugh. "He was hitting cartwheels in the middle of the hallway. He was pumped." Hillman talked to Notre Dame's head coach next. " I c a l l e d C o a c h [ M a rc u s ] Fre e m a n , and he said that it was o n e o f t h e g rea te s t decisions of my life," Hillman recalled. "He trusts that I'll be ready to work when I get there." Hillman is the na- tion's No. 12 athlete and No. 201 overall prospect in On3's rank- ings. What position he'll play in college is truly a mystery at this point, as he could line up at any offensive or defensive skill posi- tion. But at least to start, Hillman plans to play the position he's most familiar with. "I'm not really sure," Hillman said for his position at Notre Dame. "I will be try- ing out at quarterback, but who knows. It could be anything." The four-star prospect will sign with N o t r e D a m e Dec. 21 and en- roll next sum- mer. "I'm a leader and a fun guy to be around," he said. "I'm al- ways there for people, and that'll never change. I have that friend aspect to me." Hillman was named the Class 4 Region A offensive player of the year in 2021 and was a finalist for the 757 Golden Arm Award. The Virginian-Pi- lot listed Hillman on its second-team all-area offense. He accounted for more than 2,400 all-purpose yards and 31 touchdowns as a junior. Hillman totaled 1,312 passing yards and 11 touchdowns and ran for 1,236 yards and 22 scores as a senior. He was named the Region 4A offensive player of the year for a second time. He was also a second-team all-region defensive back and punter. He announced his commitment on his mother's birthday. ✦ COMMITMENT PROFILE BRANDYN HILLMAN Fighting Irish Land Impressive Two-Way Virginia Athlete Hillman is the No. 12 athlete and No. 201 overall prospect nationally in On3's rankings, and could play quarterback, running back, wide receiver or defensive back for the Irish. PHOTO COURTESY BRANDYN HILLMAN FILM ANALYSIS "[Brandyn] Hillman has a lot going for him as a prospect. He has a pretty interesting overall profile. To start, he's pretty young for his class; he turned 17 in June. Hillman has pretty good size and dimensions as well at 6-1, 190. And that [height and weight] is from the offseason; he could be bigger now. He has a 6-foot-5 wingspan, and he ran a 4.74 40-yard dash at the Elite 11 with a 4.1 shuttle and a vertical over 40 inches. Athletically, he piques your interest off the jump. "And, more importantly, you see what he does as a player on Friday nights, and it's very intriguing. He's talented and skilled enough to play multiple positions at the next level. I like him the most at safety from my judgment. His physicality, athleticism and experience as a playmaker on offense projects well at safety. And it's not much of a projection from his striking power and tackling ability. He's a big-time hitter who's not a full-time defensive player. "And offensively, he makes plays with the ball in his hands. He's pretty good as a quarterback. If he were to focus on the position full time, he could give you a nice run option at quarterback, but I do prefer him at safety. He could play multiple positions on offense, though, as a do-it-all player." — On3 director of scouting and rankings Charles Power "The coaching staff played a big role. They kept in touch with me, and I knew that if they took all that time to invest in me then it might be the best place to be." HILLMAN ON THE IRISH STAFF

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