|Camden, NJ – 6'2" 205|
4*, #269 overall, #41 WR (2016) or
|Rivals||4*, #235 overall
#53 WR, #6 NJ (2016)
|ESPN||4*, #193 overall
#26 WR, #6 NJ (2016)
|24/7||3* #92 WR (2016) or
3* #65 WR (2017)
|Other Suitors||SoCar, UNC, UO, VT, MSU, Rutgers|
|YMRMFSPA||Junior Hemingway or
|Previously On MGoBlog||Very old Hello post from me.|
|Notes||Twitter. HS teammate of Ron Johnson and Cesar Ruiz. Committed in 2016 but had to prep.|
Leap heavy prep year tape:
[ED NOTE: We're retconning Hawkins into a safety because Harbaugh keeps saying that's his likely destiny.]
Brad Hawkins is the first guy Michigan bothered following through prep school since infamous raconteur Marques "Fuck Lion" Slocum, which says something about how Michigan felt about him. It also forces us to consider the odd gray area of post-grad years and their impact on college football rankings. JUCOs get funneled into their own category these days. Prep guys are either left static or dumped into a generic bin without explanation.
In Hawkins's case this odd limbo had the following effects:
- ESPN and Rivals offered him generic four star rankings based on their previous evaluations. They did not give him position or state rankings. Their grades remained the same.
- Scout dumped him down to a generic three star.
- 24/7, by far the most skeptical site originally, gave him an extra point and bumped him up a hundred slots or so.
Only 24/7 appeared to pay any attention to Hawkins's post-grad season, so the highlight video above—which Partridge called "phenomenal"—barely factors in.
Post-grad croot scouting in a nutshell: despite the fact that the only service to re-evaluate Hawkins had an improved opinion, his composite ranking slipped from #294 to #420.
Further complicating our attempts to do something useful here: that position switch. Every service ranked Hawkins as a wide receiver. None broached the idea he might play defense except for a very early 24/7 mention that he has the "range and toughness to be an effective safety" and a tiny aside in his ESPN eval. Hawkins did play the spot in high school, racking up 99 tackles his last two years; nobody even bothered to mention any potential on the other side of the ball. So here's all this stuff about Hawkins the wide receiver.
The main reason everyone ranks Hawkins on offense are his hands. Specifically how they rise up from a thicket of defenders and snag balls that look like bad throws, bad ideas, or both. His junior highlight reel above sprinkles in the occasional defensive play amongst a variety of contested-ball receptions. The grad-year film includes a Darboh-vs-BYU catch and various other back-shoulder spectaculars. This man is a rebounder.
When Hawkins was scouted in camps or at the Semper Fi game, those hands came in for consistent high praise.
- Josh Helmholdt: "he does everything well. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder is an all-around wide receiver who can break press coverage, gets on top of defensive backs in a hurry and catches everything thrown his way. The four-star has a basketball background and that came through in the way he was able to high-point the football and out-leap defenders. "
- Blair Angulo: "…made several nice grabs near the sideline, showing a high comfort level on the edge and in tight spaces with defenders around him. Hawkins also had a spectacular diving catch where he adjusted well to a poorly thrown ball."
- ESPN: "Uses his size, height and wide catch radius to gain advantages against tight coverage. … Overwhelms smaller, shorter DBs in a crowd. Looks to have big hands and the ball rarely gets to frame. Times jumps well and high points the ball better than most. Above average body control opening up and adjusting to throws outside strike zone. Tracks deep ball well and fields over the shoulder throws naturally."
- Brian Dohn: "…combination of size, acceleration off the of scrimmage, his ball-tracking skills and his ability to use his body to shield defenders. He is physical and catches the ball at its highest point. He goes over the middle and can out leap defenders to make catches, and he is tough to bring down after the catch. If his speed improves, he will be the total package."
- Clint Brewster: "…nice concentration to catch passes over the middle and in traffic. He's able to use his body to box out defenders and snags the ball away from his body out in front. Really attacks the ball in jump ball situations. He's got the strength to win in jam coverage off the line of scrimmage and get open."
By the end of Hawkins's primary camp season folks were saying things like "had a lot of success on jump balls … made some very touch catches, and that is to be expected." Allen Trieu compared him to Junior Hemingway when he committed, and yup. All scouting reports touch on his size, physicality, and ability to run through tackles in the open field.
A couple other aspects of his game are more divisive. Sites are deeply split about his level of polish. Rivals said his route running is "very advanced" after seeing him at a Rutgers passing camp; Tim Sullivan asserted that he "runs cleans routes and … is patient setting up defensive backs for his solid array of double moves". On the other hand, the NJ 24/7 site contradicted that, saying he "struggles most" with routes and will have to dedicate himself to improvement in that area. ESPN asserts he is "not a disciplined or polished route runner yet." If he's going to play safety, whatever.
A more important critique is Hawkins's overall athleticism. 24/7 was initially as impressed as the other three sites but dumped him way down their rankings after he ran a 4.82 40 at an Opening regional. 24/7 expressed "doubts about his athletic upside." Other sites followed suit, albeit less dramatically; Rivals shoved him down about 50 slots because "there isn't a ton of explosiveness to his game."
On the other hand, Hawkins anchored his high school's 4x100 meter relay and consistently ran times in the low 11s; a number of other evaluations have at least somewhat complimentary takes on his athleticism. Interestingly, a lot of them focus on short-area quickness:
- Kipp Adams: "more fluid and sudden than many might think given his size, especially in tight spaces, where he used double moves to make defenders miss twice in a span of five plays Friday."
- Dohn again: "quick feet and changes direction and accelerates well. That translates into escapability in tight spaces and the ability to gain extra yards after the catch. … Good balance and his burst allows him to get into open space quickly.
- ESPN: "appears to labor a bit as a runner and you question his explosiveness and top end speed. However, the more you watch him, the faster and more sudden he becomes, especially for his size. … deceptively sudden in confined spaces and can shift gears to flash double moves. At times he doesn't look like he's moving all that fast, but then he will shift gears and get behind coverage more often than not."
- 24/7 at that Opening regional where he ran the crappy 40: "Smooth and explosive. Did his thing on this stage and got space and separation several times." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Offers break the tie here. Michigan's main competition was South Carolina; UNC was another potential fall visit destination. Early offers from powers seemed to be in the "we'd like to see you camp" bin. Hawkins is not likely to be a plus athlete at a higher level.
After all that… I don't know, man. It says something about Hawkins's talent level that Michigan was willing to take him when this was the potentially steep cost…
With Brad Hawkins in the fold, it's very likely going to be one or the other between Tarik Black and Oliver Martin.
…but the total lack of safety scouting and athleticism concerns mean he is one of the class's biggest wildcards.
“We were on the phone for exactly 27 minutes. For 22 minutes, he talked to me about life and school, didn’t mention football at all,” Hawkins Sr. said. “Everything about the conversations with him was just different [from other coaches].”
Why Junior Hemingway or Jarrod Wilson? As a receiver Hawkins fits in the contested-ball-acquisition category with guys like Hemingway and Amara Darboh. Darboh turned out to be sneaky fast and Hawkins might be a step slower, so Hemingway is the slightly closer comparison. Splitting hairs. Greg Mathews is another potential comparable, albeit a less encouraging one.
Any safety comparison is a wild guess. Mine is Jarrod Wilson, who's approximately the same size and fell to UDFA territory despite a long tenure as a starter because his high 4.5 40s at Michigan's pro day were unexciting. Wilson's career was very boring, with few opportunities to do anything but come up and tackle. Hawkins could be more impactful if he has the range to get over the top of deep passes and display his rebounding skills.
Guru Reliability: Low. All Star game and a fair number of camps; prep year fuzziness and total lack of D scouting.
Variance: High. Zero scouting for newly projected position and some athletic questions.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. Not the fastest guy in the world; good frame; has a standout skill; while the prep thing isn't a huge deal I'd rather have a safety could have gone Stanford instead of barely missed getting through the clearinghouse.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Hawkins looks like a useful piece with little shot at being a star.
Projection: Have to think redshirt if he sticks on defense, as there are two safeties in his class who enrolled early and drew praise. Even though Hawkins has played the position have to figure there's an adjustment period, especially in a Don Brown defense. Another year of waiting is highly likely since Michigan will return both starters in 2018.
In year three and beyond Hawkins has some shot at playing somewhere. How much of one and where is anyone's guess. I'd be surprised if he could grab a starting job at S in 2019, with just the Kinnel slot open; he'd have a decent chance the year after since one of JKP/Woods is likely to be in the lineup already and the other one could end up busting.
I wouldn't rule out a return to offense, either. His ability to go get it is impressive and that's best utilized when you've got the ball.