2009 Recruiting: Brandin Hawthorne Comment Count

Brian March 5th, 2009 at 2:54 PM

Previously: S Vlad Emilien, S Thomas Gordon, CB Justin Turner, CB Adrian Witty, LB Isaiah Bell, and LB Mike Jones.

Pahokee, Florida - 6'0" 181
brandin_hawthorne Scout 3*, #33 WLB
Rivals 3*, #35 OLB
ESPN 78, #39 OLB
Others --
Other Suitors Tennessee, WVU, USF, Louisville
YMRMFSPA Ian Gold(?)
Previously On
Not much.
Notes Early enrollee. Pahokee (Odoms, Smith). Florida small schools defender of year. Also: shirtless.

Brandin Hawthorne is the one linebacker recruit in the class who actually played, you know, linebacker in high school and is scheduled to do so in college. Isaiah Bell and Mike Jones were safeties; high school linebacker Cameron Gordon is going to play wide receiver, at least for a while.

Irony enters the party now: Hawthorne is smaller than all of those guys. Generously listed at 6-foot-nothing, Hawthorne is safety- or even corner-sized. He was used mostly as a lightning-quick wrecking ball at Pahokee; check his eyepopping TFL stats:

Hawthorne finished last year [his junior season] with 80 tackles, and 31 of those were for losses. He forced two fumbles and recovered two more last season.

So he's just like Shawn Crable, if Crable was six to eight inches shorter. So he's just like Chris Graham, if Hawthorne was a stiff, clunky guy incapable of shedding blockers and not much for changing direction. He's not like either, actually. I mean, just look at the guy. Linebacker? In college? Er. There's a reason Hawthorne is well down in the rankings. When you have to make statements like this

“Don’t let size fool you,” Hawthorne said. “There’s a grown man inside me.”

…you're going to be fighting an uphill battle. Also, you have something in common with Charlie Weis.

However, there are other reasons, reasons he got offers from Michigan and a wide variety of other schools:

On the college scene, Hawthorne's ''stock is exploding,'' according to Blue Devils coach Blaze Thompson. Hawthorne is ranked No. 17 on recruiting analyst Larry Blustein's Palm Beach list. He also has received plenty of offers, but has ''only five that I'm really concerned about'' -- Michigan, South Florida, Louisville, Tennessee and West Virginia.

His teammates certainly aren't surprised at the attention.

''Brandin's a monster,'' [Pahokee corner Willie] Hickman said. ``He goes 100 percent -- the whole play, the whole game -- he's just a monster. It's good to have him on your team. You don't have to sit around and wait for somebody else to make the play, because he's going to make the play.''

ESPN, oddly, had few concerns about size($), at least in the long term:

Hawthorne possesses all the physical tools for a college program to mold into a disruptive perimeter player at the next level if they are patient with his development. He can run, close, and hit and has incredible upside. Tall, rangy frame with a very long wingspan; should play at close to 225-pounds at next level while retaining his good play speed and athleticism.

They did say he needed "major bulk and size" before he was college-ready, but was "greatly underrated and is a definite late bloomer with a ton of natural gifts to develop at the next level." They then rated him the #39 OLB, which is about where everyone else rated him. So go figure.

Teammate and recruiting kerfuffle origin Nu'Keese Richardson echoes the "monster" diagnosis:

"I've never seen anyone hit like Hawthorne, even Janoris," Richardson said. "Brandin Hawthorne will make you think twice about coming his way."

So does his coach:

Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson has a nickname for senior linebacker Brandin Hawthorne.

It's "psycho." But he means that in the nicest way.

And so does he (link ibid):

"He says that because there's nothing I fear," Hawthorne said. "I don't care how big you are, I'm a get you."

I'm a get you. Those four words come from a kid in Pahokee, Florida, where the only industry just got bought by the government and linebackers get murdered for being in the wrong part of the muck and kids chase rabbits for something to do, and represent the vast gulf in culture between the old guard and the new better than anything I've run across so far. Hawthorne's home life… probably a bit different from your average Massey or Boren. The fact that Hawthorne and Smith fit in so well with the coaches recruiting them they would commit to Michigan sight unseen (and, unlike DeQuinta Jones, stick to that commitment) indicates a shift in philosophy. It's not seismic if you've got Forcier and LaLota and Roh and Turner and Gordon and etc etc etc, but it's real.

I've brought this up before in these profiles: Michigan is recruiting kids with an eye towards the future of offense, and this is most obvious at linebacker, where corner-sized Hawthorne is the only high school linebacker arriving. They are also recruiting kids who don't have much other than football, for whom buy-in is not an option to think about if they don't want to go plow driveways for dad.

I like Hawthorne's attitude and ability to turn opponents into random high-velocity subatomic particles; I like the fact Michigan jumped on him with an early offer and pursued him without reservation. I like the fact he has a place he'd like to visit but not live. I wish he had more than one big offer (Tennessee) outside of Michigan, and wish he wasn't so small. Hawthorne seems rated about right to me, and is a guy who is about 50-50 between starting and fading into Bolivian.

Why Ian Gold? It's not a very good comparison, since Gold was moved from running back, but Gold was an undersized but quick WLB, good in coverage and a dangerous blitzer.

Guru Reliability: High. No reason he'd be overlooked.
General Excitement Level: I have hard time getting over how small he is. On the other hand, Hawthorne seems likely to make the most out of his physical attributes, and if ESPN thinks he's got the frame that's a good sign. Here's a passage that sums all that up:

When Cardinal Newman hosted Pahokee this year, Crusaders kicker and punter Brendan Gibbons was rumored to be headed to Michigan. Blue Devils linebacker Brandin Hawthorne, one of this area's meanest hitters, already had made an oral commitment to the Wolverines.

So when Hawthorne had a chance to drill Gibbons after a punt - which he did at least once the previous season - he let up. "I'm not going to knock you out this time since you're going to Michigan," Hawthorne said after the play.

Gibbons was grateful, although at 6-foot-0, 212 pounds he is roughly Hawthorne's size.

I dunno, evil, vicious, bullet… kicker-sized linebacker. Moderate, I guess. Anyone you're expecting to put 40 pounds on may come out the other end of that incapable of moving his neck and stuff.

Projection: Very, very probable redshirt, and then I think he'll have to wait for Mouton to graduate. Redshirt sophomore before he's got a real shot at the field; may be better suited for a 3-3-5 than a more traditional D.



March 5th, 2009 at 3:06 PM ^

I know that I'm comparing apples to oranges. Aaron Curry, the LB who is projected to be picked in the top 3 in the draft, he was 195 lbs. coming out of HS but he has the frame to get bigger. He went from 6'3" 195 lbs to 6'3" 255 lbs without losing much speed/quickness.

Not saying that he's the next Aaron Curry but it's something to think about when looking at LB who is undersized.


March 5th, 2009 at 3:11 PM ^

All the physical attributes in the world mean shit if you play like Thompson, Evans, Panter, or BadEzeh. You can't teach instinct and determination.


March 5th, 2009 at 4:33 PM ^

Dhani Jones, Ian Gold, David Harris were not particularly tall but were effective LBs....

on other teams, Sam Mills, Mike Singletary not very tall but effective... so lets see how he plays before we criticize his height!


March 5th, 2009 at 4:44 PM ^

I think in college you tend to be able to get away a bit with being on the smaller side if you can wrap up well and your defensive scheme does not ask too much of these little guys. Of course, the smaller the LB the more important the duty of the DTs is to take up blocks, but Hawthorne sounds like the type of kid who will maximize his talents and should be a decent contributor to this team after the requisite redshirt.


March 5th, 2009 at 4:51 PM ^

There are plenty of recruits who are nowhere near the size for their position--that's what a couple years in a BCS program is all about. He can play LB at the college level at 215-220, especially in the spread era (which I think will continue). Going from 180 to 215 shouldn't be a problem. But he won't see the field until he is at least a redshirt soph.


March 5th, 2009 at 5:18 PM ^

I agree with that. His rivals profile listed him at 181 during the summer before his senior year. Since he enrolled early, he could very well be 190 or 195 just by the start of his red shirt year. If he puts on 5 to 10 lbs a year after that, he's looking at a solid playing weight by the time he would get a chance anyway.


March 5th, 2009 at 5:18 PM ^

As foolish as it may be. I am calling it right now that this kid plays this season.

Now for me to explain. He is in the program early, which will give him some time to beef up a bit and learn the system. But I think this kid will play this year and contribute on special teams. From all the write ups he just sounds like the kind of guy the coaches would love to unleash out there to just run some poor kick returner down and make a highlight of knocking the snot out of him.


March 5th, 2009 at 6:05 PM ^

This kid hits better than Janoris Jenkins? You mean the Freshmen All American Janoris Jenkins, who started every game for the National Champions? Why can we not put him at CB or Safety? This kid is going to be a big player for Michigan whether its this season or later down the line, but he is going to be great.