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Rivals100 linebacker Justin Hilliard pulled in his first scholarship offer almost exactly a year ago. Since then he has added offers from more than 40 additional schools, but this week he narrowed that list down to a top 15.
Hilliard announced his top 15, in no particular order, on Friday morning. The teams remaining are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Ohio State, South Carolina, Texas A&M and USC.
"I wanted to narrow it down because I put a lot of thought into when I want to commit," Hilliard said. "I really felt that I didn't want to wait until [next year's] National Signing Day. I want to pick a school and then recruit some other guys and be a leader in my class.
"I am cutting it down to 15 this month, hopefully 10 next month and then a top five by the start of my season. I am not exactly sure when I am going to commit, though."
Paring his list from more than 40 offers to a top 15 was a chore, but Hilliard was evaluating some specific aspects when choosing his final schools.
"I was looking at a bunch of different things, such as academics, playing time and, if I visited there, how I felt," Hilliard said.
The school Hilliard visited most recently was Oklahoma, and that visit helped the Sooners make the four-star linebacker's first cut.
"They are a young team right now, which definitely means a lot. They are up-and-coming," Hilliard said. "I really liked the coaching staff as well and we were there for two days, so I definitely got to see the campus and hang out with some of the guys."
Hilliard estimated that he has already visited eight or nine of his final 15 schools, and how he manages visits going forward is something he is already thinking about.
"Schools like Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan - those schools I have been to multiple times, so I will probably stay away from them a little bit until I get my top ten, and then go visit them again," Hilliard said.
"I think I will be visiting Florida, maybe Ole Miss and I'll probably hit up Alabama [next]. It will probably be sometime in the summer, but Florida could be sometime soon."
The Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier junior is ranked as the No. 45 prospect in the 2015 class and the No. 1 inside linebacker in the country.
Josh Helmholdt is the Midwest Region football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.
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