Dax Hill isn't in South Florida (yet) -- what does that mean for Michigan?
The ’90s TV game show “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” featured the a cappella stylings of the aptly named group Rockapella as contestants attempted to track down the show’s titular villain.
The 2021 program “Where in the World is Daxton Hill?” features the tapdancing stylings of Jim Harbaugh as virtually everyone attempts to track down the titular all-Big Ten Michigan safety.
There have been rumors of Hill’s absence throughout the leadup to the Orange Bowl, and Wolverines quarterback Cade McNamara was the first forced to don his tap shoes when asked about it on Wednesday.
“You know, it’s not our job to comment on other players, so we’ll let Coach Harbaugh answer that question,” McNamara said when asked about Hill, dodging with such skill that he could have avoided one of Patches O’Houlihan’s wrenches.
“Really that’s a question for Coach Harbaugh, not for us,” offered center Andrew Vastardis.
Of course, this in turn forced Harbaugh to actually answer the question of Hill’s whereabouts when presented with the issue on Thursday morning.
Harbaugh also tried to dance around the subject, but khakis are no leotard.
He first declared that Hill is questionable for the CFP semifinal against Georgia on Friday night without detail beyond the ambiguous fact Hill is “working through something” and “we’ll know more today.”
When finally pressed on Hill’s precise whereabouts, Harbaugh relented and confirmed the safety is not currently in Florida. And presumably not in nearby Cuba, either.
“He could be here today,” Harbaugh said. “[Or] maybe not.”
All of this smoke-and-mirrors would lead one to the conclusion that Hill has been isolating due to COVID-19, whether as a close contact or someone who has actually contracted the illness. And that the “could be” is a negative test while the “maybe not” is a positive test.
But again, that is sheer logic-based speculation. It might not be any of those things. Or it could be.
Why Michigan needs Dax Hill
Behind Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, Hill is the best player on Michigan’s defense. Essentially, he’s the quarterback of the secondary. And this is a bad time to be without that kind of leadership.
Hill’s obviously talented. Opposing coaches named him first team all-Big Ten. But beyond that, he’s perfectly suited for Georgia’s offensive game plan. Hill’s career-high of 11 tackles came against Wisconsin, which likes to run the ball and involve tight ends in the passing game just as Georgia does. The versatile Hill is usually used as the nickel in a 5-defensive back scheme, cleaning up the box in the manner Tyrann Mathieu used to for LSU.
Tight end Brock Bowers is Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett’s favorite target by a mile, which speaks to both Bowers’ talent and Bennett’s limitations. Bowers has 47 receptions for 791 yards and 11 touchdowns. That gives him 19 more receptions, 361 more yards and 6 more touchdowns than any other Bulldog.
And Hill is almost certainly the player who would be tasked with slowing Bowers down. Hence, Michigan’s attempt at subterfuge is understandable. But also clearly not working.
Regardless of whether it’s an unpracticed Hill or a replacement in the lineup, you can bet the Bulldogs will be using Bowers to provide a stress test on Michigan’s defense.