Much like Justin Ferguson does on the Auburn team side, recruiting reporter Benjamin Wolk will answer the Recruiting Question of the Day. You can ask him questions on Twitter or Facebook. Look for our Question of the Day each weekday. Go here to see our previous answers.
How close in talent level are Matthew Hill (#1 in GA) and Justyn Ross (#1 in AL)? I feel like AUB fans don't understand they got the top WR in GA this cycle.
— Robert Barron, III (@_RCB3) February 22, 2018
Before I dive deeper into those two prospects — one Auburn missed on and one it signed — let’s take a look at their receiver production in the 2017 seasons. Both prospects played in the highest classification in their respective states. Both were the top receiving option on the squad. From games I saw each play in 2017, Ross had more useful quarterback play. Hill had more other offensive weapons around him.
The results show Hill with more catches and yards. Ross had nearly twice as many touchdowns, though it’s worth noting Hill — who had to play serve several roles for his team — added 5 more touchdowns as a running back and kick returner.
Those numbers, to an extent, help describe the types of players they are.
Hill stands 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds. He was a high-volume receiver for his high school, which resulted in the 15 more catches and 149 more yards than Ross. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Ross presents a bigger target in red-zone situations. That helps explain the increased touchdown count for Ross despite less total catches and yards.
In short, the two have different enough skill sets that it’s tough to compare from a strict X’s and O’s standpoint.
Robert’s question and commentary above, however, points more to perception than production — and there’s some merit there.
The general reaction I’ve gotten from Auburn fans on Twitter, Facebook Live and around town is that the Tigers limped to the finish on National Signing Day. Justyn Ross’ decision to sign with Clemson is usually the first conversation point in that discussion. Yes, Auburn would’ve loved to land Ross, the state’s No. 1 prospect. That’s why coaches told other un-offered targets they’d have to wait to see his announcement before a potential offer.
But the miss of Ross shouldn’t overshadow the star power of a guy like Hill who didn’t really make his final decision to sign with Auburn over Clemson until the weekend before Signing Day.
Ross was the No. 7-ranked receiver in the country. Hill came in at No. 17. Ross ranked as the No. 45 overall prospect. Hill was No. 92.
Perhaps the most interesting rankings metric is what Robert mentioned above, that Hill was the top-ranked wide receiver in Georgia for the 2018 class — ahead of Bulldogs’ signee Kearis Jackson. So Hill and Ross were both the best receivers (by rankings, at least) in their respective states, and Georgia is generally thought to be a more competitive high school football state than Alabama.
What makes Hill most appealing is his versatility. As mentioned earlier, he played running back and kick returner for his high school. He also played some safety, which is the position Clemson was recruiting him to play. When he chose Auburn last summer, Alabama was also actively recruiting Hill to play receiver or safety, whichever he preferred.
This was always a highly-coveted prospect. It just took the in-state school a little longer than everyone else to realize it. Georgia didn’t offer Hill until midway through his senior season, around the same time as Clemson. By that time, it was too late for the Bulldogs.
Auburn fans may worry about missing on Ross, who left Alabama altogether. When it’s all said and done, I expect Georgia to be the program that most regrets watching a top wide receiver go out-of-state.
To see all the answers to prior Auburn questions, click here.
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