Among NCAA Elite in Tackles; Playing Superb While Learning
New Linebacking Position 10/7/02
linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer entered the season facing the
toughest challenge of his collegiate career. To say he has
passed the test would constitute a huge understatement.
Nearly midway through the season, the Commodore senior has
positioned himself as one of the nations premier defenders,
despite learning to play a new position, middle linebacker.
For the last two season, Hillenmeyer played on the outside
in a four-linebacker alignment.
Hillenmeyer, a native of Nashville, has blossomed in the
middle. Through five games, he is second in the NCAA and leads
the Southeastern Conference with 49 solo tackles. Hillenmeyer
also ranks fifth nationally with 68 total tackles.
The 64, 241-pound senior appears to improve with
each start as he becomes more comfortable with the position.
In his last outing against South Carolina, Hillenmeyer posted
a career-high 18 total tackles. He has topped double-digit
tackles in every game this season.
Hillenmeyers effort has earned praises from the Vanderbilt
staff. Hunter has done everything our staff has asked
of him, and has performed at a very high level in every game"
Head Coach Bobby Johnson said. "He has responded well
to a very difficult challenge.
Johnson and his staff introduced a new defensive system last
spring, unveiling a 4-3 set to a squad that played the 3-4
for the previous three seasons. Their search for a middle
linebacker - a key to effectively utilizing the 4-3 - focused
on Hillenmeyer, who had spent the 2001 season as an outside
We needed help in the middle, Vanderbilt linebacker
coach Warren Belin said. We felt Hunter was the perfect
fit with his strength, size and ability to run.
Though reluctant initially, Hillenmeyer accepted the challenge.
He spent the off-season preparing himself in the weight room
and doing what he could to learn the new scheme. When preseason
drills arrived, Hillenmeyer told the staff he was ready for
the position change. They also wanted him to step forward
as a leader for the unit.
The leadership role was important to Hunter,
Belin said. Our middle linebacker has to be the leader
of our defense. He calls the signals, he has to know his assignments
and those of the other players. Hunter has accepted that role.
He studies a lot of film and is very active in discussing
the game plan with our coaches.
Belin is pleased with Hillenmeyers progress and sees
an unlimited future for his pupil. Hunter is developing
into the player that we as a defensive staff thought he could
be. If he continues to improve and develop as a player, Hunter
has a future at the next level, Belin said.
Hillenmeyer also is a standout in the classroom. He will
complete a double major this year, with degrees in economics
and Human & Organizational Development. A two-time All-SEC
Academic Honor Roll selection, Hillenmeyer maintains a 3.79