Friday, August 14, 2009

Towering titan

Hawkinson beefs up in vital move to left tackle

Offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson was named to the 2010 preseason All-Big 12 team.

Offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson was named to the 2010 preseason All-Big 12 team.


The plump kid with the curly hair was sitting in the back of the room, talking about food.

This was Tuesday, and Tanner Hawkinson, the newly minted left tackle for the Kansas University football team, was explaining how, exactly, a recently lean college freshman had managed to transform himself into a nearly 290-pound titan.

“It’s not too hard,” Hawkinson assured during KU football media day. “It’s just eating quite a bit for most of the day.”

Over the course of the last year, as he has inhaled eggs and protein shakes and generously proportioned peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with great frequency, Hawkinson has packed nearly 50 pounds onto his 6-foot-6 frame — a development that has significantly altered the player’s appearance while also acting as a source of great amusement to fellow members of the team’s offensive line.

“Yeah, we notice (the extra weight),” says sophomore center Jeremiah Hatch, smiling. “We tease him. It’s like, ‘How does it feel to be a real o-lineman now?’”

For the moment, it appears to feel good enough.

With the exception of some obvious weight-related setbacks — “Sometimes when we’re running sprints or something, I feel like I’m still moving pretty good,” he says, “but I’m still back with all the (linemen)” — Hawkinson seems to be settling into his new role nicely. Currently, he is acknowledged as the team’s starter at left tackle, and while the depth chart figures to be altered greatly before the team’s home opener against Northern Colorado on Sept. 5, there does not appear to be an abundance of competition for the left tackle spot.

What’s more, Hawkinson is working under the tutelage of a man who — by his own account — has made a career out of turning marginal tight ends into highly successful offensive tackles. During last month’s Big 12 media days in Dallas, Kansas coach Mark Mangino pointed out the similarities between Hawkinson’s situation and those of Adrian Jones and Todd Weiner, former players under Mangino who went on to play professionally after making the switch from tight end to offensive tackle.

“When I came here, Adrian Jones was a tight end — and a mediocre one at that,” Mangino said of the current Houston Texan. “And it took us about six months to convince him that he could make a lot of money being an offensive lineman. He didn’t believe it at first; he didn’t. He believes it now. Because if he was a tight end coming out of this program, he’d be a good insurance salesman.”

Of course, new and exciting as Hawkinson’s new position might be, it also comes with a catch: the pressure of being counted on as the primary protector of the program’s most valuable commodity.

Hatch is no stranger to such pressure. He lived it for nine games last season as a red-shirt freshman, taking over the position previously manned by all-American — and current Cincinnati Bengal — Anthony Collins, and he can still remember those unfortunate occasions when his man would burst by him on the line and KU quarterback Todd Reesing would end up on his back.

“To this day, it haunts me,” said Hatch, shaking his head.

Hatch has spent the past few months, however, trying to ease the transition of his successor — mostly, by answering the multitude of questions that Hawkinson has been firing at him.

“He asks me questions all the time,” Hatch said. “... He’ll ask, ‘How close does my footing need to be?’; ‘How fast do I need to set?’; ‘What’s the key thing as far as when the ball’s snapped?’”

After some early reservations about the switch, meanwhile, the McPherson native seems confident that, by the end of training camp, he’ll be prepared for the various rigors that come with playing as a Division-I lineman.

“Being out there on the field this year will be one of the most exciting things — just being able to help my team in any way possible,” he said. “Obviously, if the coaches are positive and confident in you, it’s always encouraging.”

Stuckey named to Bednarik watch list

Kansas senior safety Darrell Stuckey was named to the Chuck Bednarik Defensive Player of the Year watch list Thursday, the third time the Kansas City, Kan., native has been named to a national trophy watch list this preseason.

Stuckey, an all-Big 12 first-team selection last season after finishing with 98 tackles and five interceptions, was one of 55 players named to the list but one of only four safeties, joining Tennessee’s Eric Berry, Georgia Tech’s Morgan Burnett and USC’s Taylor Mays.


jayhawk4alifetime 10 years, 5 months ago

Nice story about Hawkinson but I'll bet we don't get too many 5-star tight ends knocking down the door after the coachs statement about insurance salesmen!

Rivethead 10 years, 5 months ago

I wouldn't worry too much about recruiting TEs to KU. After all, Coach Mangino recruited a 2 star TE out of OK that's now playing for the Buffalo Bills. Yeah, Derek Fine seemed to work out just fine.

njjay...quite staring at the Evony chick and go find some other pictures of Tanner. Coach Dawson has done a masterful job with him.....and also don't forget the kid is only a redshirt freshman.

Jonathan Allison 10 years, 5 months ago

Evony should pay that guy. Congrats on making 10 comments about a webpage advertisement

KGphoto 10 years, 5 months ago

njj: Evony chistes han saltado el tiburón. Pasar.

Strength is important of course. But I imagine the reason he's transforming tight ends is because they haven't been huge their whole lives and they are used to moving their feet quickly. At left tackle, you're mainly worried about defensive ends, not nose tackles. And in college those guys are 250-280 and quick.

Tanner you've got to be loving this. A tight end on this team is just a blocker anyway. Now you've got a glorious job. The Gatekeeper. And if Coach believes you can do it, I certainly do. Good luck!

sevenyearhawk 10 years, 5 months ago

His name's Titan ... and he likes fightin'!

Joe Baker 10 years, 5 months ago

I like what Mangino is doing. He's mixing it and finding the right chemistry. It should pay dividends. Keep up the great work Mangino and keep developing those players for a championship.

STLJHawk86 10 years, 5 months ago

"there does not appear to be an abundance of competition for the left tackle spot"

Why? Is Ben Luekens departure from the program the reason (or one of the reasons) or are there other reasonss/factors? The lack of competition suggests that (i) Tanner is a serious stud or (more likely?) (ii) no depth at LT. After watching the O-line's growing pains last year I was hoping this year's group would be a seasoned group that would be on more even footing with the defensive linemen of the OUs and Texas' of the Big 12.

Christopher Hauser 10 years, 5 months ago

njjayhawk-I have seen guys that are ripped up struggle at the tackle position because they can not move their feet and get the fundamentals of the position down. While I have seen guys with less muscle succeed. Look at the Denver Broncos offensive line, not too many beasts huh. Questions about footwork and base movement are never "basics." If he was not asking questions, then I would be worried. By the way, I am sure he put on enough muscle to play the position at the college level so dont look too much into the one picture you have seen. Last but not least, your "Evony babe" comments are stupid and annoying, no offense but someone needed to say something. Get yourself a real female if you dont have one, they are a lot better than women on the internet. So do yourself a favor and stop with the Evony comments.

Christopher Hauser 10 years, 5 months ago

Maxhawk- Parrish will not bump Spikes, HCMM will not have two starting tackles with no game experience again unless Spikes has gotten horrible which he has not. Spikes is good and Parish has not practiced the position long enough to beat him out.

Kevin Long 10 years, 5 months ago

6' 6" and 290 is a very nice size. I assure you it is not all fat. Willie Roaf looked and we all know how good he was.

gojhawx 10 years, 5 months ago

Great article...can't wait for September 5th! Loved the insurance salesman comment...and letting a kid know if he wants a pro career, he may be better suited at another position with his particular skills/abilities.

Dyrk Dugan 10 years, 5 months ago

the reason why there is little competition at the LT spot, is because last year's LT is now our starting center!

so unless you flip Spikes back over, then you have would still have the same thing. we have a pretty good rotation at DL, so Parish moved over to the offense.

Hawkinson will be fine at LT, along with mr. Wolfe. our O line, by the middle of the year....will be dang good. at the first...simply because of experience...there could be some breakdowns. but the talent and physical play, will be there.

Eric Williams 10 years, 5 months ago


I said something on the "Big 12 Hard Hitters" article about his stupid Evony comments.

It seems as though he posts quickly on every new article, but doesn't ever return to continue the "actual" discussion. He's most likely an immature little high school boy that probably secretly plays Evony hoping that if he wins he will meet the fake woman.

On other news...Hawkinson's footwork is the key here. If he masters that he will be decent, but I am a little concerned about his height. Not in how it will affect his play but with Reesing throwing to the left side of the field.

Todd being 5'9" - 5'11" throwing over a 6'6" LT could pose some issues.

Rivethead 10 years, 5 months ago

Reesing has never "thrown over" his OL. They create passing lanes for him, which he throw through.

Christopher Hauser 10 years, 5 months ago

jhawk613- Jeff Spikes is also 6'6" on the right side, so I dont think height will be a problem.

gardenjay 10 years, 5 months ago

I have been hoping for more info about the OL this year, and was glad to see this article. Thanks Dugan.

Also, Stuckey deserves all the laurels he gets. What an admirable person, he really defines a good work ethic. For those of you who are just joining this space and want to get excited about this season, I suggest you look him up on YouTube (a poster on a previous article provided some links).

Also, advertising on this virtual space obviously stirs the pot, and frankly both genders need to understand how we are being exploited. Maybe we are all guys, but that does not make us less exploited in that Evony ad. If we are free to discuss this topic, change could happen.

They might even photoshop some flaws in her skin. Wouldn't that be cool?

Joseph Kuebel 10 years, 5 months ago


RE: "They might even photoshop some flaws in her skin. Wouldn't that be cool?"

No, that would not be cool at all. I'm questioning your orientation after that comment..she looks fine the way she is.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.