|PHOTOS: DT JOHNATHAN HANKINS|
Dearborn Heights, Michigan
Southeastern High School
When Buckeyes fans talk about their team's dominance in shutting down the opposing running game, they have evidence to back up their claim of ranking among the elite in the college football game in that category. During the last four seasons, Ohio State has ranked among the top fifteen teams in neutralizing the ground attack three times.
That success could be the result of the constant pressure applied by the duo of Hankins and Simon. While that could sound like a law form to some, it is the "law of the land" according to the way the Buckeyes tandem have been able to attack the backfield and create nightmares for offensive guards and centers assigned with the daunting task of trying to contain either player.
Unfortunately, very few blockers have succeeded in stopping "Big Hank" and his counterpart. Hankins is more of the run containment type, while Simon's explosive speed has also seen the new coaching staff capitalized on his athleticism by having him constantly rush the passer. In their two seasons together as starters, they have combined to sack the quarterback on nineteen plays, good for minus 140 yards. They have also taken down ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage 57 times for a total of 192 yards in losses.
Simon, only the eighth two-time team captain in Ohio State history, and Hankins, a player on the cusp of reaching his potential, will be sorely missed in the OSU locker room and playing field in 2013, but based on their entire "body of work," both are destined for great things at the professional level. Hankins' loss was not surprising after his stellar 2012 campaign, but the coaches were hoping that he would have returned to school next year rather than opt for life in the National Football League.
Hankins is an impressive-looking athlete with a stout frame that shows very good upper body thickness, especially in the chest, broad shoulders, big bubble, thick thighs and calves, with long, muscular arms and large, strong hands. For a player of his size and girth, he has the sudden burst and low center of gravity to fire off the snap and consistently neutralize double team action.
Because of his ability to plays on his feet with great balance, anchoring firmly at the point of attack, he has been used at a variety of positions on the front wall – playing inside in obvious rushing situations and then lining up on the flank when a fierce pass rush and pressure on the pocket is required.
Hankins is still developing consistent mechanics and needs to improve his hand usage, but when he shoots and connects with his punch, he easily pushes the blocker back on his heels. He is a very intense player who competes on instincts, but does do a nice job of locating the ball when sifting through piles. He plays at the low stance needed to explode off the snap to generate sudden movement into the backfield and uses his arm swipes like clubs when defeating single blocks.
Well-liked by staff and teammates, he is more of a leader by example type, but teammates will listen when he gets vocal. He gives a great effort in attempts to gain penetration off the snap, as he shows good body control fighting through trash and the short area quickness to get into the gaps. The junior can explode through contact and does a good job of fighting off pressure vs. combo blocks.
Once he locates the ball, Hankins closes with good urgency. He fights pressure with aggression, quickly penetrating to pursue, flush out and wrap up the quarterback. He also holds his ground firmly at the point of attack and shows the lateral slide to make plays on the perimeter. He is a physical hitter coming off the ball and has the leg drive and hip snap to maintain leverage to stack and control. He also splits and redirects well when he doesn't expose his chest and while he lacks the sustained speed to give long chase, he has the functional lateral agility to work his way down the line.
What "Big Hank" does best is to destroy interior blockers with his strong straight-line charge, using his quick swim moves to dominate on the bull rush. He flashes a quick spin move and is improving his counter moves, but it is his hand strength rather than moves that help him control blocks and disengage. He is relentless and intent when then the coaches allow him to get to the quarterback, as he has become quite effective slanting or taking angles, along with doing a very good job of inverting single blocks.
At Southeastern High School, Hankins was a three-star prospect (Scout.com) and a two-time all-state selection for head Donshell English. A four-year starter, the All-Detroit City, All-Metro and Michigan Blue Chip performer was a two-way lineman.
As a senior, Hankins led his team to an 11-1 record and the division championship. That season, he registered twelve sacks among his 85 tackles, receiving Cityballers.com Player of the Year accolades. A member of the school's Drama Club, he also competed in track as a shot putter.
During his first season at Ohio State, Hankins was named by the OSU coaches as the team's Outstanding First-Year Player on defense. He earned a spot on the defensive line rotation and had 16 tackles, including a quarterback sack vs. Eastern Michigan. He would spend the year playing in reserve behind weak-side defensive tackle Dexter Larimore.
Enjoying life is something Hankins seems to have figured out. The Detroit native – known as "Big Hank" in perpetuity after arriving in Columbus at above 340 pounds – has a quick smile, a quick wit and a laidback personality. But on the field, Hankins has a way of making sure he's noticed, and not just because of his size.
For someone of his heft, Hankins moves incredibly quickly and was the kind of guy in 2011 who was just as apt to take a good angle and track down a ball carrier on the edge as he was to collapse the pocket. Those skills allowed him to follow a freshman season where he earned spot duty into a full-time starting position at right defensive tackle during his sophomore campaign.
The team struggled due to several players being ruled ineligible and an interim coaching staff taking over the helm, but Hankins was one of the few bright spots. The All-Big Ten Conference honorable mention totaled a career-high 67 tackles (32 solos), fourth-best on the team. He ranked second on the squad with eleven stops-for-loss that included three sacks, but the team limped to a 6-7 record, the first losing campaign by the Buckeyes since the 1988 squad finished 4-6-1.
"I just feel like my talents and how hard I've worked since I've been here has paid off," Hankins said after his sophomore season "I'll continue to work toward the goals that I have and be a leader for my team and help my team win games."
The 2012 season would be Hankins' finest. After Jim Tressel stepped down before the 2011 campaign and Luke Ficknell filled in, the staff was comfortable with the star defensive lineman simply clogging the middle of the field. The new staff, headed by Urban Meyer, wanted a slimmed-down and quicker Hankins playing all over the field.
Hankins played at 330 pounds in 2011 after performing at 340 as a freshman. He spent the offseason slimming down to 320 under orders from Meyer. The new head coach talked a few times about how much he liked Hankins and what he brings to the table, but the coach wanted to continue to see Big Hank become slightly less big. "Before I start pumping his tires too much I still think we have some pounds to go," Meyer said early in 2012 spring camp. "I still saw some giggling there."
Hankins said he was not surprised the new coaching staff had asked him to shed pounds. Based on his junior season performance, he liked the effect the weight drop – spurred on through workouts with director of football conditioning Mickey Marotti – had on his game this past season. "Since (the new coaching staff) has been here, they've helped me so much," he said. "I thank Coach Mick so much. I actually feel so good. I wish I could have played at this weight my freshman year, but I'm OK with the weight I'm at now."
His performance at that lower weight was noticed by the new members of the coaching staff. Hankins was the first player to be recognized for his work ethic while graduating from one level in the team's evaluation system to another. "He really and truly caught my eye," co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said. "I'm one of those guys, I look at the inside of the defense out. I think you have to be good inside. I look at a big guy that's athletic and explosive off the ball and I say, 'That's where you start on defense, right there.'
"I just think he's dominating. He's aggressive of the ball. He's hat-in-hand. He's tying up blocks inside. He's being a factor in the inside run game, and I think that's where it starts."
With his new, slimmer body, Hankins went on to receive All-American and All-Big Ten Conference honors. The slimmer version of their run stuffer saw Ohio State improve from giving up 141.54 yards per game rushing in 2011 to just 116.08 yards per game in 2012, a figure that ranked second in the league and 14th nationally.
Hankins registered 55 tackles (23 solos) and while he managed just four stops behind the line of scrimmage, compared to eleven the previous season, it was obvious to all that he played his best season at Ohio State, as his quickness chasing down ball carriers led to the marked improvement throughout the defensive unit. The team, while ineligible for post-season competition, would record a 12-0 mark, becoming the only major college to go undefeated in 2012.
On December 10th, 2012, it was reported that Hankins elected to forego his senior season to enter the 2013 NFL Draft. He joined the rest of the senior-laden 2012 starting defensive line in heading out the door. "I will always be grateful for the family I have gained here at Ohio State," said Hankins. He leaves behind an Ohio State squad that has been stocked with young, highly recruited defensive linemen the past two recruiting seasons by current head coach Urban Meyer and defensive line coach Mike Vrabel.
"I want to thank Coach Meyer, Coach Vrabel and strength coach (Mickey) Marotti for bringing the best out of me as a football player and person, and for their constant support. I also want to thank Coach Tressel and Coach Heacock for recruiting me and giving me an opportunity to be a part of this great school and great program."
Meyer said in a statement he enjoyed coaching Hankins during the past year. "His hard work on and off the field has given him an opportunity to move on to the next level," Meyer said. "The coaching staff and I wish him all the best."
Hankins is the first Ohio State player to leave early for the league's regular April draft since Thaddeus Gibson following the 2009 season. He was a fourth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2010 draft. Ohio State had an underclassmen selected in every April draft from 2004-10 but none the past two years, a streak Hankins is likely to snap as he has been projected as a first-round pick by many sources.
"My three years at The Ohio State University have provided amazing experiences for me, and they are years I will never forget or take for granted," Hankins said. "My plans are to return to finish my degree and to continue to be a part of this brotherhood of Buckeyes. I am so appreciative for the support I have received from my teammates, the coaching staff and administrators at Ohio State, and of course, my family."
Fifteen Buckeyes who played for Jim Tressel have been drafted as underclassmen, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who was a supplemental pick in 2011 after leaving school in the midst of an NCAA investigation earlier that summer.
Hankins started his final 25 games, appearing in 38 contests for Ohio State…Finishes with 138 tackles (58 solos), five sacks for minus 27 yards and 16.5 stops for losses totaling 55 yards…Also recovered a fumble.
A first-team All-American selection by FoxSportsNEXT.com, Hankins added second-team honors from the Associated Press and third-team recognition from The NFL Draft Report and Phil Steele…Also named to the watch lists for the Bednarik, Lombardi, Outland and Nagurski Awards...Started all twelve games at right defensive tackle, recording 55 tackles (23 solos), fifth-best on the team…Had a 10-yard sack and four stops for losses off 22 yards, as the All-Big Ten Conference selection helped the Buckeyes rank second in the league and 14th in the nation in run defense, allowing just 116.08 yards per game…Made ten tackles (6 solos) while recording his only sack for the 2012 campaign in a 35-28 win over California…Followed with another ten-tackle performance in a 29-15 victory over Alabama-Birmingham, as he also assisted on a stop behind the line of scrimmage…In the Purdue contest, he blocked a kick and posted eight tackles (6 solos)…Added four stops, including one for a 7-yard loss vs. Illinois.
Named the team's Jack Stephenson Award winner as the team's outstanding defensive lineman, the honorable mention All-Big Ten Conference by the league's coaches and media started all thirteen games at right defensive end…Even though the team recorded a 6-7 record, Hankins helped the Buckeyes rank 19th in the nation in total defense (323.54 ypg)…Registered a career-high 67 tackles (32 solos), ranking fourth on the team…Was second on the squad with eleven stops for losses of 24 yards, as he posted three sacks for minus 10 yards and recovered a fumble…Collected a season-best ten tackles with a 2-yard sack and 1.5 stops for loss vs. Nebraska and recorded nine hits that included two stops for minus 5 yards vs. Illinois...Assisted on two stops-for-loss among his seven hits in the Michigan State clash…Had seven more tackles vs. Wisconsin and eight tackles with a 2-yard sack vs. Indiana…Followed with seven tackles, including one for a loss vs. Penn State.
Named by the OSU coaches as the team's Outstanding First-Year Player on defense, Hankins played in all thirteen games behind weak-side defensive tackle Dexter Larimore, as he totaled sixteen tackles (3 solos), a 7-yard sack and 1.5 stops for minus 9 yards.
2012 Season…Hankins appeared in every game of his collegiate career, but battled a lingering knee injury most of the season…Could not complete the agility tests at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine after he suffered a left pectoral strain while performing in the bench press drill.
Attended Southeastern (Dearborn, Mich.) High School, playing football for head coach Donshell English…Three-star prospect (Scout.com) and a two-time all-state selection…A four-year starter, the All-Detroit City, All-Metro and Michigan Blue Chip performer was a two-way lineman…As a senior, Hankins led his team to an 11-1 record and the division championship…That season, he registered twelve sacks among his 85 tackles, receiving Cityballers.com Player of the Year accolades…A member of the school's Drama Club, he also competed in track as a shot putter.
Criminology major…Son of Louise and James Ward…Resides in Dearborn Heights, Michigan.