Photo of Tony Hills
Grade
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  • 6'6" Height
  • 305LBS. Weight

Overview

Hills is a former tight end who overcame a devastating injury that threatened his career during his high school days to go on and start 24 of his final 42 games with the Longhorns. Unfortunately, his college career would also be cut short due to a broken fibula in his left leg. He had made a smooth transition to left tackle from tight end as a redshirt freshman and proved to be a capable replacement for former All-American Jonathan Scott.

Hills was a three-year starter as a tight end at Alief Elsik High School, where he twice earned All-Greater Houston and All-District honors. A Parade All-America selection who added Class 5A third-team All-State recognition as a senior, he added second-team All-State accolades during his junior campaign.

Hills averaged 17.9 yards on 28 receptions his final two seasons. As a senior, he caught 15 passes for 275 yards for a team that reached the 5A Division I semifinals, but sustained a serious left knee injury in the first half of that contest. He also totaled 13 receptions for 227 yards and a touchdown as a junior. Before giving up basketball prior to his freshman year, he had earned a spot on the U.S. Junior National team.

Because of his knee injury, Hills was granted a medical hardship in 2003 at Texas, giving him time to recover from reconstructive surgery that repaired nerve damage in his knee. Doctors originally feared his playing days were over, but a grueling rehabilitation program saw Hills return to the field in 2004.

As a redshirt freshman, Hills shifted to left tackle. He appeared in seven games on offense and special teams in 2004, competing for playing time. He was part of a line that cleared the way for Texas to rank second in the nation in rushing (299.2 ypg), seventh in total offense (464.4 ypg) and 18th in scoring (35.3 ppg).

In 2005, Hills was a valuable reserve, seeing action in 11 games as Jonathan Scott's caddy at left tackle. That year, the line was responsible for the Longhorns ranking first in the nation in scoring offense (50.2 ppg), second in rushing offense (274.9 ypg) and third in total offense (512.1 ypg).

With Scott gone to the National Football League, Hills stepped into the starting lineup in 2006. He was an All-Big 12 Conference honorable mention and earned a spot on ESPN's All-Mayday Team for being one of college football's "Toughest of the Tough," in addition to being named one of UT's Most Improved Offensive Players. With Hills clearing the way, Texas gained 162.6 rushing yards per game (34th NCAA), 391.5 total yards per game (23rd NCAA) and scored 35.9 points per game (seventh NCAA).

In 2007, Hills earned Walter Camp All-American first-team and was named to the All-Big 12 Conference first-team squad. He started the first 11 games at left tackle before he broke a bone in his left leg. In the 11 games with Hills at left tackle, the team averaged 471.5 yards in total offense and 265.2 yards passing per game, while allowing an average of 1.9 sacks. With Hills on the sideline, the offense averaged 415.5 yards in total offense, 201.5 yards passing and three sacks per contest.

Analysis

Strengths

Positives: Has a tall frame with good bone structure and can carry at least another 20 pounds of bulk without having the added weight affect his overall quickness...Lacks ideal explosiveness coming off the snap, but has developed into an efficient position-and-wall-off type of blocker...Has adequate foot speed to get into position, but needs to do this with more urgency...Hard worker in the training room, evident by the progress he made in recovering from a career-threatening injury in 2003...Struggles to adjust laterally, but shows a nice slide and good pad level working in-line, using his hands well to widen the rush lanes...Plays with better balance and base at the line of scrimmage than when on the move...Good position blocker who works to sustain, but you would like to see him play with more aggression...Plays the game with his feet flat and shows enough forward surge to get some movement...More of a position blocker in the running game, getting better inside leverage than on the outside...When he keeps his pads down, he is able to wall off or force the chase routes, as he is effective at turning his hips and mirroring in the short area...Uses his long arms and reach to engulf smaller opponents...Might lack the physical components to dominate, but shows good technique with his hands, keeping them active and within his frame...Can hit moving targets in the short area, but is best moving straight ahead than down the line (good on the short pulls, sluggish on the long ones)...Adequate readjusting inside, but has decent retreat skills to protect the pocket...Can flash some quickness to defeat the defensive end to the set point and protect the corner, but will give up his upfield shoulder when he gets too tall in his stance...Grabs and clutches to control defender, compensating for a lack of a jarring hand punch. Negatives: Had a career-threatening knee injury in high school that resulted in nerve damage and needed minor surgery later to clean out debris...Coupled with his left leg (fibula) fracture late in 2007, further medical evaluation will be needed to get him a clean bill of health...Not explosive coming out of his stance and while he is a good position-type blocker, he lacks pop behind his hand punch...Might be a better fit inside at guard, as he's a bit of a waist bender with some stiffness in his hips that causes him to struggle vs. movement at times...Has to become more aggressive shooting his hands with force, as his punch won't shock or jolt an oncoming defender...Plays at a even keel tempo, but you would like to see a more "nasty" nature from a left tackle...Gets good hand placement, but must lock on, grab and drag down defenders with better intent (seems to be going through the motions at times)...When he gets too erect in his stance, bull rushers have had success pushing him back into the pocket and he needs to hunker down and anchor better (base gets narrow)...Likes to grab his opponent a lot, but needs to be more discrete when doing so to prevent costly penalties...Not the quickest in recognizing defensive schemes and will be late off the X's...Has problems moving laterally to handle the edge rushers and needs to be more forceful shooting his hands on reach blocks...Can handle the short pull, but his timed speed fails to translate when he has to move to the second level (looks sluggish moving long distances)...Better working in-line and must do a better job of staying square in his kick slide, as defenders have had success getting past him with good club moves on his outside shoulder...Must stay with his blocks longer moving upfield and has to take better angles when looking for second-level targets to hit. Compares To: JONATHAN SCOTT-Detroit...Like the player he replaced in the Texas starting lineup, Hills is very effective blocking in-line, and if he can show more urgency on the pulls and traps he might be a better fit at guard than at tackle. He lacks the loose hips and strength to shock and jolt vs. the bull rush, but does a good job of widening the rush lanes, thanks to good hand placement and long arms. He can be pushed back to the pocket vs. a strong bull rush, as he has a marginal anchor. His injury problems are a concern, as it could impact his quickness, which is adequate at best.
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Grade Title
9.00-10 Once-in-lifetime player
8.00-8.99 Perennial All-Pro
7.50-7.99 Future All-Pro
7.00-7.49 Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.50-6.99 Chance to become Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.00-6.49 Should become instant starter
5.50-5.99 Chance to become NFL starter
5.20-5.49 NFL backup or special teams potential
5.01-5.19 Better-than-average chance to make NFL roster
5.00 50-50 Chance to make NFL roster
4.75-4.99 Should be in an NFL training camp
4.50-4.74 Chance to be in an NFL training camp
No Grade Likely needs time in developmental league.