Ohio University offensive coordinator Tim Albin loves the options he has at the running back position this season.
He may have got another one for 2016.
Ohio head coach Frank Solich confirmed Monday that C.J. Hilliard, a running back transfer from Iowa, will be joining his program. Hilliard watched some of the Bobcats’ practice inside Peden Stadium on Monday, will or has already enrolled, and should be an active member of the roster within days.
Hilliard was a 2014 signee with the University of Iowa as a running back. He was a consensus three-star recruit, and had offers from Boston College, Indiana, Kentucky and half of the Mid-American Conference after being a four-year letter winner at the powerhouse St. Xavier program in Cincinnati.
The Bobcats recruited him before that 2014 signing day, and will welcome him to Athens after he took a redshirt last fall with the Hawkeyes.
“He’s with us now, and will be on our football team,” Solich said. “It’s good to have him aboard.”
Hilliard, listed at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, was buried on the Iowa depth chart, and was not part of the Hawkeyes’ 105-man roster for fall camp. Hilliard announced his transfer intentions via social media last week, and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz confirmed his departure on Friday with a statement.
“C.J. Hilliard has elected to transfer to another institution closer to home to continue his academic and football pursuits,” the statement read. “C.J. had a tremendous attitude in our program and we wish him the best.”
Hilliard rushed for 1,000 yards in his final two seasons at St. Xavier — combined — and also appeared in six games as a senior as a defensive back and collected 40 tackles. Now 20 years old, Hilliard will be classified as a walk-on this fall.
It’s expected Hilliard will have an opportunity to earn a scholarship next semester. Hilliard will have to sit out 2015 because of NCAA transfer rules, but will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2016.
Hilliard’s younger brother, linebacker Justin Hilliard, was a five-star recruit who signed with Ohio State in February.
Solich said it’s not been determined yet where C.J. Hilliard will play at Ohio, though running back seems like a good guess.
“The good thing about him is he’s athletic, and could play on both sides,” Solich said. “But we have not talked to him specifically about that yet. We want him to really have a say on where he lines up.”
Hilliard is the third Iowa player in as many years to transfer to Ohio. Two years ago, wide receiver Cameron Wilson — no longer on the Ohio roster — joined the Bobcats after a short stint with the Hawkeyes. Last fall linebacker Marcus Collins transferred to Ohio after playing the 2014 spring season at Savannah State. Collins had appeared in 24 games in three seasons — from 2011-13 — with the Hawkeyes, and is a backup at one of the outside linebacker spots.
Monday marked the start of the fall semester at Ohio, which means those players on the active roster who were not part of the 105-man roster for fall camp could now begin practice.
Two players, however, will not be a part of the Bobcats’ efforts this season.
Junior walk-on place-kicker Matt Amicone is off the roster for now, Solich said.
“Matt decided to retire. He’s an outstanding student. He felt like it was time for him to zero in on his academics,” Solich said.
Also off the roster for now is freshman defensive lineman Demetrius Colbert, a member of the 2015 signing class as a preferred walk-on.
Colbert was in fall camp, but hasn’t been seen at practice in nearly a week. Solich said “a financial issue” is to blame.
“There was a technicality here in terms of paying for a hold. Something didn’t get squared away in time,” Solich said. “(Colbert) is going to join us again next semester.”
Ins and outs
Ohio had three potential starters out of Monday’s practice, the first after a two-day break. CB Brett Layton and MLB Quentin Poling did not participate, and WR Brendan Cope remained on the sidelines as well. Cope has not practiced since Aug. 14.
Also remaining out were WRs Ian Dixon (hamstring) and Tim Helton (lower leg), and offensive linemen Marques Grimes, Brennan Dudziak and Stephen Langenkamp.
On the flipside, OLs Austin Pleasants and Zach Adams dressed and took part in portions of practice. Freshman DB Maxwell Howell, who missed the entirety of fall camp with a calf strain, also practiced for the first time this fall.