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Kylin Hill is the Total Package

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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If Hill’s performance against Kansas State was any indication, he might just be the next in line to join the growing list of Moorhead’s pupils to get taken in the first few rounds of the NFL Draft.

After last season, Aeris Williams was probably one of the most returning running backs in college football. The then-junior went for six touchdowns and over 1,100 yards on 236 carries. Kentucky’s Benny Snell was the only returning SEC ball carrier that was more productive.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago and it was sophomore Kylin Hill, not Williams, that was named the starter coming out of fall camp.

This was surely an enormous decision for new head coach Joe Moorhead, but a gutsy one, as well, to select the only intermittently used Columbus, Mississippi-native over the well regarded and more established Williams.

So far, it looks like the right decision.

Moorhead has built a reputation as having a knack for developing skill players. If Dan Mullen was a quarterback whisperer, the former Penn State offensive coordinator is a running back/pass catcher whisperer.

If Hill’s performance against Kansas State was any indication, he might just be the next in line to join the growing list of Moorhead’s pupils to get taken in the first few rounds of the NFL Draft -- a list that includes the likes of Chris Godwin, Daesean Hamilton, Mike Gesicki, and Saquon Barkley.

Hill’s talent has never been in doubt. The #6 running back in the Class of 2017 by 247Sports, he was a bonafide blue-chipper and had many in and around the program in Starkville excited. With good reason, too, but the overwhelming anticipation was that his time would come after Williams’ departure. The timeline accelerated, although by choice as opposed to necessity.

It was never in doubt that Hill had the ability, rather a simply a seemingly foregone conclusion that the returning starter couldn’t be unseated in light of his 2017 contributions. However, there were certainly signs of the then-freshman’s dynamism, even on a small sample size.

For instance, according to CFB Film Room, Hill forced 13 missed tackles on just 77 rushes, as compared to just 17 for Williams on 236. Hill also averaged more yards per attempt, more yards per opportunity upon reaching the second level, gained at least five yards at a higher rate, and, a more effective pass catcher than his counterpart, averaged more yards per reception, and more yards after the catch per attempt.

Give the staff credit for going with the higher upside option. Williams is a steady hand, a reliable sure thing. Hill potentially adds another element to what could very well be the best Mississippi State team ever.

Today could prove to be a star turn for Hill and serve as confirmation for Moorhead’s apparent beliefs. He went for 211 yards and two rushing touchdowns on 17 carries against the Wildcats. Showing off that pass catching ability, he also added a 16-yard touchdown grab on a patented Joe Moorhead wheel route. For context, as good as he was, Aeris Williams has never recorded a receiving touchdown.

The scary thing now is that it’s no longer Williams vs. Hill. It’s both of them against the world. The transition has, by all accounts, gone smoothly, too. A competitor, no doubt, Williams has put his ego to the side for the betterment of the team, and acted like the quintessential good teammate throughout the process.

Rather than sulk, the veteran has taken his replacement under his wing and is vitally important to the success that Hill is currently enjoying. In the pursuit of a common goal, Williams has not resigned himself to a mere backup role; he has gone from being a steady presence on the field to an arguably just as impactful steady presence on the sideline, in the meeting room, on the practice field, and in meetings.

Make no mistake, it’s Hill’s time to shine, but Williams will still be there, ready to help out when his number is called. In concert with a healthy Nick Fitzgerald, who rushed for 159 yards of his own against K-State, behind the best offensive line that Moorhead has ever coached, there aren’t many run games in the country that stack up to what the Bulldogs have to offer.

As shifty as he is bruising, Kylin Hill is just as capable of beating linebackers to the edge and making defensive backs miss at the second level as he is of winning between the tackles, as he is catching passes and making plays out of the backfield.

In other words, Kylin Hill is the total package.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP