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OT Hawkins could make immediate impact

12/7/2011

AUSTIN, Texas -- Week after week Mack Brown stepped to the podium and rattled off the team-voted upon award winners.

Week after week the offensive lineman of the game was David Snow.

That’s great for 2011. But here is the deal Snow won’t be playing in 2012. He’s a senior. He was surrounded by two freshmen, Josh Cochran and Dom Espinosa as well as two sophomore Trey Hopkins and Mason Walters.

Not wanting to take a dip in experience, Texas decided to plunge into the junior college ranks to come up with Snow’s replacement. What the Longhorns surfaced with was Donald Hawkins, a 6-5, 315-pound lineman from Northwest Mississippi Community College.

Hawkins, a tackle, may force some shifting around of responsibilities on the line. But he also could bring some much-needed stability, not to mention depth. Texas, because of attrition and failed recruiting four years ago, has not built experienced depth along the line.

Luke Poehlmann is the only rising senior who is in the two deep for Texas. And Poehlmann was more of an oddity than a blocker in 2011. He found his role as a glorified blocking tight end. Unless there are dramatic changes, he will not be a starter on the 2012 line.

Texas does have an up and comer in Sedrick Flowers. The freshman was forced to redshirt due to injuries. But had he been healthy, Flowers would have played significant snaps in 2011.

So what Hawkins, who claimed not to give up a sack in two years of junior college, adds is someone who can enroll in January, go through spring and be ready to start by September. At the very worst, Hopkins could be a valuable backup to Josh Cochran or Trey Hopkins at either of the tackle spots.

Where Texas will have to work with Hawkins is on his downfield blocking. Texas changed its scheme this season and became and attack style offensive line. They get after the ball and go after the defense in the open of creating an initial hole and getting into the linebackers.

With the addition of another highly touted running back, Johnathan Gray, that style is not likely to change. In fact, Texas, because it will have three weapons in the backfield with Gray, Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown is going to require its linemen be even more aggressive and athletic because of a desire to get the aforementioned trio out in space with a phalanx of blockers.

Hawkins appears to bring that type of athleticism. After committing to Oklahoma State early, he began to draw interest from more typical college football powers during his second year at NWCC. Florida jumped on midway through this past season. Georgia became interested. And Texas, with new offensive line coach Stacy Searels, also found its way to Senatobia, Miss.

That Mack Brown not only OK’ed Searels interest in Hawkins but ultimately gave the thumbs up to extending him an offer speaks loudly to the contributions the tackle is expected to make to Texas. Brown has only signed two junior college players in his Texas tenure and one of those was a punter.

But Hawkins was seen as a vital get for Texas. Now the Longhorns have him.