2013 NFL Draft Preview: Michigan

Tag: Brandin Hawthorne

24Apr 2013
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2013 NFL Draft Preview: Michigan

Denard Robinson

Right here is the one . . . the only . . . exhibition of my non-expert opinion on where Michigan’s players will end up in (or out) of the NFL Draft.

Denard Robinson, QB/WR/RB
Robinson has some questions about what position(s) he’ll be able to play in the NFL.  It’s pretty clear that he won’t be a full-time quarterback (although certain packages or plays wouldn’t be out of the question), but he might lack the hands and route running skills to be a wide receiver or the bulk to be a running back.  My guess is that he will carve out a career somewhat like that of the Cleveland Browns’ Josh Cribbs, a guy who isn’t a star but contributes as a receiver, runner, and kickoff returner.
Best guess: 2nd round, #59 overall to New England Patriots

William Campbell, DT
Campbell measured in at 6’5″, 311 lbs., ran a 5.15 forty, and did 35 reps on the bench press at Michigan’s pro day.  He was not very productive at Michigan and struggled to win a starting role, but he is very large and shows impressive power when he decides to stay low and play hard.  There’s a chance that Robinson will be the only player drafted out of Michigan, but if there are others, the best bet appears to be Campbell for the next highest draft slot.  He would fit best as a 3-technique in a 4-3 defense, in my opinion.
Best guess: 6th round, #188 overall to Chicago Bears

Jordan Kovacs, S
The 5’11”, 205 lb. Kovacs was highly productive as a tackler at Michigan, although his pass coverage leaves something to be desired.  He ran a 4.63 at Michigan’s pro day and showed impressive leaping ability with a 35″ vertical, but that athleticism doesn’t really show itself on the field.  Kovacs played strong safety at Michigan, and that’s likely where he would fit best in the NFL – as an in-the-box safety who doesn’t have to worry too much about deep coverage.  He could also be productive on special teams coverage.
Best guess: 7th round, #247 overall to Baltimore Ravens

Craig Roh, DE
Roh measured at 6’4″, 271 lbs. at Michigan’s pro day and ran the forty in 4.91; somewhat disappointingly, he only put up 20 reps of 225 lbs. on the bench press.  He changes direction fairly well for a strongside end, but he lacks pass rush moves beyond the occasional bull rush.  Added weight seems to have slowed him down throughout his career, so he may not be able to bulk up into a 3-4 defensive end; his best bet might be to try to make it as a slightly undersized strongside end in a 4-3.
Best guess: Undrafted

Patrick Omameh, OG
Omameh is a 6’4″, 303 lb. prospect who was a four-year starter at Michigan, but he only put up 22 reps at Michigan’s pro day.  He’s not particularly adept at pulling, but he has pretty good lateral movement and can stay low.  If he can increase his strength and add a little bit of weight, I think Omameh can latch on as a backup somewhere, perhaps in a zone running scheme like Houston’s.
Best guess: Undrafted

Kenny Demens, LB
Demens stands 6’1″ and 245 lbs. with a 4.82 forty and 26 reps on the bench press; he also had a 33.5″ vertical and a 4.54 shuttle time.  He’s not particularly quick at diagnosing plays, but he is a thumping hitter with surprisingly good coverage skills.  Demens didn’t make enough plays at Michigan to really stand out, but he could earn a shot as a middle linebacker in a 4-3; his body and athleticism also make him seem like perhaps an inside linebacker in a 3-4, but his lack of quick diagnoses make that a questionable proposition because he would have to shed linemen.
Best guess: Undrafted

Roy Roundtree, WR
Roundtree is a 6’1″, 178 lb. receiver prospect who ran a 4.58 forty at Michigan’s pro day, where he also put up just 10 reps on the bench.  That forty time isn’t very impressive, but he was deceptively quick at Michigan, breaking off several 70+ yard receptions throughout his career.  He has struggled to add weight at any point in his college career, and NFL defensive backs will probably be able to push him around pretty easily.  He could perhaps help out as a slot receiver for someone, but he’s not fast enough or physical enough to work on the outside, in my opinion.
Best guess: Undrafted

J.T. Floyd, CB
Floyd is a 5’10”, 190 lb. defensive back who put up less than stellar numbers at Michigan’s pro day – a 4.79 forty and 5 reps on the bench press.  It’s no secret that I have never been impressed with Floyd as a football player, so I won’t beat around the bush: I don’t think he has a shot at getting drafted, and his best chance would be to hook on with a team that runs a Tampa Cover Two where he can sit in the flat on a lot of plays.
Best guess: Undrafted

Ricky Barnum, OG
Barnum is a 6’2″, 297 lb. interior lineman who earned good reviews for his ability to get out and run, but he ran just a 5.53 forty at Michigan’s pro day; he did, however, put up a respectable 25 reps on the bench press.  He may have been best suited for the zone running offense that Rich Rodriguez employed, but most of his playing time was earned in 2011 and 2012, when he was expected to be a powerful, drive-blocking guard.  He struggled to get much movement and does not appear likely to get drafted, but perhaps a zone running team will give him a shot.
Best guess: Undrafted

Brandin Hawthorne, LB
Hawthorne is a 6’0″, 220 lb. prospect who benched 225 lbs. an impressive 27 times at Michigan’s pro day.  He was an occasional starter at Michigan, but fell behind freshmen at weakside linebacker in each of his last two seasons.  The chances of him making it in the NFL are slim, but if he does, it will probably be as a weakside linebacker in a 4-3 and/or a special teamer.
Best guess: Undrafted

Vincent Smith, RB
Smith is a 5’6″, 172 lb. player who ran a 4.85 at Michigan’s pro day in March, although he did a little better with a 4.31 shuttle time; he also had a 30″ vertical and did 14 reps on the bench.  He earned a starting job as a feature back in 2010, but that role dissipated when Brady Hoke was hired; since the beginning of 2011, he was mostly a pass protector and third down back.  Without the speed to make big plays in the NFL as a third down back or returner, Smith might get just a cursory glance by a few NFL teams.
Best guess: Undrafted

Elliott Mealer, OG
Mealer, at 6’4″ and 321 lbs., ran just as fast (5.54 seconds) as Barnum, despite being two inches taller and 24 lbs. heavier.  Mealer also put up 29 repetitions on the bench, which is a good number.  He played center in 2012, but he seemed to struggle getting off the ball; however, I do have to say that his snaps themselves were excellent.  He also had some mental gaffes, but that was perhaps in part due to playing mostly tackle and guard early in his career before becoming the full-time center.  If Mealer is able to latch on in the NFL, I think it will be as a right guard for a team that likes to run the ball.
Best guess: Undrafted

Mike Kwiatkowski, TE
Brandon Moore, TE

20Jan 2013
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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.

16Dec 2012
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Floyd, Hagerup, and Hawthorne suspended for Outback Bowl

J.T. Floyd got himself suspended for the upcoming bowl game

Fifth year senior cornerback J.T. Floyd, junior punter Will Hagerup, and senior linebacker Brandin Hawthorne have all been suspended for the Outback Bowl against South Carolina, which will be played on New Year’s Day.

Floyd has started all 12 regular season games at boundary corner, making 48 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 5 pass breakups.  However, I have been a pretty persistent and vocal critic about his play, because he lacks speed and playmaking ability.  He’s also not a very physical player, and he was beaten deep several times this year, although the Big Ten’s mediocre quarterbacks rarely connected.  His replacement will likely be Raymon Taylor at the boundary corner spot, with Courtney Avery probably stepping in at field corner.  This could also cause recent position switcher Dennis Norfleet or sophomore Delonte Hollowell to get some playing time on defense.

Hagerup is the Big Ten’s best punter, averaging 45.0 yards per punt.  Thirteen of his 33 punts went farther than 50 yards.  His replacement will probably be Matt Wile, who averaged just 31.9 yards per punt, but 7/9 of those landed inside the 20-yard line.  Last season Wile averaged 41.6 yards per punt when Hagerup was suspended for the first four games of the season.

Hawthorne was completely limited to special teams this season, making 19 total tackles.  As a small-ish, speedy linebacker, he was very solid in kickoff coverage.  But he has clashed with coaches at times, made some halfhearted plays, and generally played/behaved his way out of regular playing time.  Despite having some playmaking ability – witness his one-handed interception in April’s spring game – he was surpassed at inside linebacker by freshman Joe Bolden, freshman James Ross, and a guy who has yet to make a single positive play in a Michigan uniform, Mike Jones.

The biggest loss might be Floyd, because Michigan had already been without starting cornerback Blake Countess for the entire season due to an ACL tear.  Now Michigan’s #3 and #4 corners to start the year will probably line up for the majority of the Outback Bowl, and guys who have played sparingly will be forced into action while other players shuffle around.

25Nov 2012
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Ohio State 26, Michigan 21

Here’s some Kate Upton to make you feel better.

I told you so but I wish I didn’t.  Last week I railed against the usage of Denard Robinson, saying that using Denard so much last week a) set him up to get injured, b) might limit his effectiveness against OSU, and c) took away the element of surprise of using him in the backfield and at receiver.  People responded by saying that they were glad Michigan used him because it would give Urban Meyer trouble preparing for this week’s game.  How did that go for you?  Denard tweaked his elbow injury last week and didn’t throw even once this game.  Michigan also ran very few plays with Robinson and Devin Gardner on the field, running a very vanilla and predictable offense.  I guess all that stuff last week was just for fun.

WTF.  There’s really no excuse for the play calling in the second half, and that falls on both Brady Hoke and Al Borges.  People want to fire Al Borges, but the head coach has to step in and call shenanigans on the crappy play calling.  Now I’m not suggesting that either one get fired, but you can’t separate the two entities. As the head guy, Hoke is responsible for the calls that are made by his coordinators.  Michigan tried running the ball up the middle with Vincent Smith – which has been a terrible idea for years – and generally went into a shell on offense.  There was no element of surprise, and all the plays and counter plays that were opened up last week by Robinson’s utility were apparently erased from this week’s playbook.

Derrick Green, come on down.  Outside of Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan’s running backs are terrible.  Thomas Rawls has no vision, lacks speed, and isn’t as powerful as a short yardage back should be.  Vincent Smith is gone anyway, and while I always liked him as a third down-type back, plugging him in for short-yardage plays against OSU was a poor decision.  You simply cannot expect him to gain yardage when Michigan’s interior offensive line is this bad.  He did okay running outside on the inverted veer plays, but good grief, Borges has to put him in a position to be successful.  Even fullback Stephen Hopkins comes in for some criticism here, because he missed two key blocks and generally looked like he didn’t understand his job.  Michigan needs running backs in a bad way, and I don’t see game-breaking ability in either DeVeon Smith or Wyatt Shallman.  The coaches need to bring in a bunch of backs and let them improve through competition.

Play action bulls***. Here’s the part that perhaps irked me most about the play calling in the second half.  Borges kept calling play action passes when there was clearly no threat of running the ball.  That doesn’t work against teams who aren’t stupid, and the Buckeyes are a lot of things – cheaters, ugly, arrogant, etc. – but their defense is always well coached.  When Devin Gardner turns around to give play action fakes, he’s diverting his attention from the coverage and sometimes he’s limiting himself to throwing to half the field.  The linebackers and safeties weren’t biting on play action fakes to Vincent Smith because Smith gets tackled by a stiff breeze, so there’s no tactical advantage.  But again and again, Gardner wasted time by running around with his back to the defense and pretending like the Buckeyes gave a s*** about the 5’7″, 175 lb. running back.  Just drop Gardner straight back or roll him out.

Carlos Hyde played well.  I actually thought Michigan’s interior defense would hold Hyde down pretty well, but Michigan’s defensive ends and play calls seemed so concerned with Braxton Miller that they unclogged the middle a little bit.  Hyde got downhill and broke a few tackles, but there were several occasions where he got to the second and third levels without being touched.  Greg Mattison seemed to call more 4-3 Over defensive fronts than normal.

Freshman frustration.  I do not like seeing guys like James Ross and Joe Bolden out there in games like this.  It was somewhat inevitable, I guess, because of a lack of depth, but today is an example of why you need depth at linebacker.  Bolden in particular got out of position a couple times and allowed some key gains, and Ross got caught inside on a Braxton Miller run.  Both of those guys have high upsides, but freshmen are freshmen.  Next year the Wolverines should be able to go two-deep with experienced guys at every linebacker position, so we should see even more improvement in the linebacker group.

Mike Jones and Brandin Hawthorne exist in bad ways.  I was not a fan when Rich Rodriguez recruited Jones and Hawthorne, and they have worked their ways down the depth chart.  Jones incurred a 15-yard penalty for a late hit in this game, and Hawthorne has made similarly poor plays this season on special teams.  It’s not a coincidence that Ross and Bolden passed those guys for playing time.  Hawthorne will graduate after this season, and I would not be surprised to see redshirt junior Jones depart with a year of eligibility remaining.

This was Gardner’s worst game.  Gardner was visibly frustrated at a couple points, and it showed in his play.  Especially in the second half, it looked like he was trying to throw pinpoint passes instead if letting it fly.  He’s always had a slightly awkward throwing motion, but he just didn’t seem to be following through with his normal verve.  That’s somewhat understandable for a kid playing quarterback in such a big game for the first time, which is why it would have been helpful to have Robinson ready to throw the ball.  Robinson had his best quarterbacking performance against these Buckeyes last season, so limiting him to 10 touches seems like a bad idea.  Gardner finished 11/20 for 171 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception, and he took 4 sacks despite the absence of John Simon, OSU’s best defensive lineman.  There was nobody to take the pressure off of Gardner – Robinson out of the backfield, Toussaint, Borges – and thus it was left on his shoulders to try to make plays when there none to make.

The better team won.  I argued with people all week who said that Michigan was the better team but that the Wolverines played a tougher schedule.  The bottom line is that any of us would rather be 11-0 than 8-3 coming into the game, regardless of who was on the schedule.  The Buckeyes ran the ball well, threw the ball well, and played pretty solid defense except for a couple huge plays (Robinson’s 67-yard touchdown, Roundtree’s 75-yard TD reception).  The bottom line is that Michigan replaced David Molk, Mike Martin, and Ryan Van Bergen with Elliott Mealer, Quinton Washington, and Craig Roh, respectively, all of which are steps backward.  I fully believe that an influx of talent is coming with Hoke’s recruiting classes, but right now Michigan has a deficit that will take some time to fix.

26Jul 2012
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2012 Season Countdown: #35 Brandin Hawthorne

Brandin Hawthorne

Name: Brandin Hawthorne
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 214 lbs.
High school: Pahokee (FL) Pahokee
Position: Linebacker
Class: Senior
Jersey number: #7
Last year: I ranked Hawthorne #62 and said he would be a special teams contributor.  He started five games at WILL, making 43 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception, and 1 pass breakup.

Lots of unexpected things happened last year for Hawthorne to leap to the forefront of the WILL linebacker depth chart.  Brandon Herron had a great opening game and then hurt his quad.  Marell Evans was ineligible after transferring from Hampton.  And Hawthorne played better than he had thus far in his career.  Despite being only 6’0″ and 214 lbs., he held up fairly well and made some big plays for Michigan during his five starts.  However, things seemed to go downhill with a subpar effort in the Michigan State game, and Hawthorne seemed to find himself in the doghouse from that point onward.  Freshman Desmond Morgan grabbed the reins at WILL and started for the second half of the season.

Hawthorne played a little bit at middle linebacker this spring, too.  He’s probably too small to be a viable full-time option at MIKE, but he could be a situational backup or play in the nickel package.  He made a very nice one-handed interception in the spring game, he’s a hard hitter for his size, and he has good speed.  Unfortunately for him, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison was still not impressed after the spring game and was harping on how Hawthorne needs to become more physical.  This is the conundrum the coaches face.  Should they play a coachable, traditional inside linebacker with perhaps less playmaking ability, such as Desmond Morgan or Joe Bolden?  Or should they play a faster, less coachable guy like Hawthorne?  From what I’ve seen out of this staff, they’ll more often play the traditional guy with better technique.  Hawthorne will still play on special teams and get some action as a backup, but I doubt he has much hope of reclaiming his WILL job.

Prediction: Backup inside linebacker, special teams contributor