Sunday, January 20, 2013

Brandin Hawthorne, #7

The 2011 game against Notre Dame was probably Hawthorne's best career performance
Hawthorne was a 3-star to both major sites, and was similarly rated by both Rivals and Scout - the #35 and #33 outside linebacker, respectively.  He committed to Rich Rodriguez on August 29, 2008.  Hawthorne attended Pahokee (FL) Pahokee, a teammate of fellow future Wolverines Vincent Smith and Richard Ash.  He made 200 tackles, 76 tackles for loss, 42 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, and 5 fumble recoveries throughout his high school career.

Hawthorne enrolled early in January 2009 and proceeded to burn his redshirt for four games of special teams action, during which he accrued no statistics.  Hawthorne was a third string outside linebacker during his sophomore season in 2010, when he made 1 tackle against Bowling Green.  During his junior season in 2011, Hawthorne worked his way up the depth chart; there was a pretty good three-way battle between Hawthorne, senior Brandon Herron (who got hurt immediately), and freshman Desmond Morgan (who eventually won the job).  Hawthorne still managed to start five games before getting benched, making 43 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 interception throughout the year.  He had a pretty poor effort against Michigan State, though, which seemed to be the final nail in the coffin.  Despite a strong spring game effort in 2012, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison openly criticized his physicality; he was mostly limited to special teams as a senior and got himself buried on the bench at inside linebacker, playing just one game on defense.  His final campaign consisted of of just 19 tackles and concluded with a suspension for his final college game, the Outback Bowl against South Carolina.

63 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception


. . . making a "highlight reel" one-handed interception in the 2012 spring game.  It flashed his athletic potential while hinting at what could have been.

I wasn't very high on Hawthorne when he was coming out of high school, and he was one of those guys whose homeland - he's from Florida! - seemed to define his recruitment more than his football prowess.  Sure, he made lots of tackles in high school, but he didn't explode off the screen in those highlights.  Furthermore, Rodriguez recruited him as a "box safety" for the 3-3-5 when he seemed too slow to play safety and too small to play linebacker.  He eventually grew to 220 lbs., which is small-ish for a linebacker.  Ian Gold was about that size, but he was a better athlete; Larry Foote was about that size, but he was more physical.  But Hawthorne flashed the potential to at least be a situational player, because he was quick enough to get around the occasional offensive lineman or speed to his pass drops.  Ultimately, he just wasn't consistent enough, and the final straw for me was when he had a chance to wrap up Michigan State's Keshawn Martin in the 2011 loss, and he just gave Martin a halfhearted shove, which allowed a touchdown. Players might loaf once in a while, but on a goal line play where he could save a touchdown?  There's no excuse for that.  Still, Hawthorne had the right set of skills to be an effective special teamer, and he was that . . . until the Outback Bowl suspension.  I can only wonder how the outcome may have been different if it was Hawthorne trying to tackle Ace Sanders on that 63-yard punt return touchdown, instead of freshman fullback Sione Houma.  It seems to have been a career of missed opportunities for Hawthorne.

Hawthorne's failure to nail down a starting job, his off-the-field issues, his lack of size, and his so-so athletic skills indicate that he will not make it in the NFL.  I would be slightly surprised if he even signed somewhere as an undrafted free agent, but stranger things have probably happened.


  1. Everyone knows RichRod was a mixed bag. This case (Hawthorne) seems like a good downside example. With some motivation and better habits, it's not too hard for me to imagine Hawthorne succeeding at a place like West Virginia / USF.

    As much as I dislike the "HIM TOO SMALL!!!" brigade, that seems like one obvious reason that he couldn't succeed at the highest level.

    I remember looking at his recruiting profile and thinking the numbers were insane (and that, at his size, he must have been bringing some intangibles, like a nose for the ball, to the table). Just not enough ...

  2. I'll take his TFL on Wood against ND in '11 UTL game. On that play he showed his speed and potential to slice through the DL quickly and make a huge play. People take those spring exhibitions way too seriously.

    Agree with the 'missed opportunities' synopsis. He seemed like an adequate player, so I'm very optimistic about the young guys that passed him by so quickly.

  3. Didn't Hawthorne get national defensive player of the week against Western Michigan? Two defensive TDs off of an interception and a fumble recovery? If it wasn't Hawthorne who was it?

    1. That was Brandon Herron, who graduated after the 2011 season.

  4. Well guess what he has signed with the St. Louis Rams.