Big Hank Preparing for Big Year, Not Big Exit
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Quarterback may be the most important, most talked about position in football, on any level, but if there’s one thing the NFL has shortage of, it’s big, mobile defensive tackles.
The same goes for college football.
Finding guys like Haloti Ngata can be difficult at any level, which explains why there were three defensive tackles taken in the first 14 picks of the 2012 NFL Draft. That, one year after the Buffalo Bills used the No. 3 overall pick to select Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.
With that in mind, it makes sense why many NFL insiders are projecting Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins as a top 20 pick in next year’s NFL Draft. Hankins, a product of Dearborn Heights, Mich., is entering his third season in Columbus.
He is 6-3, and has “dropped” weight to get down to 320 pounds, which is the best physical condition he has been since Hankins was a freshman in high school. There would appear to be big things on the horizon for “Big Hank,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean an early exit.
“My goal when I first got here was to win a national championship,” Hankins said.
“We can’t play for it this year and I really want to win a national championship. So, I think next year – my senior year – we’ll have a really good chance of winning it.”
Coming off a breakout sophomore season at Ohio State, Hankins will anchor the middle of an OSU defense that could be among the best in the Big Ten. They certainly should be one of the top teams up front defensively in the conference—with or without senior Nathan Williams—and possibly the country.
“Honestly, this year we’d think we’d have a good chance of winning it (this year),” Hankins added.
“But we can’t play in it (due to the NCAA’s postseason ban).”
While senior John Simon has garnered much of the attention this spring, Hankins is every bit as valuable to the Buckeyes’ success in 2012. He is coming off a year in which he finished fourth on the team with 67 total tackles. He also had 32 solo stops—an impressive number for a 330-pound defensive tackle—along with three sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
Not bad for a guy who was considered a 3-star prospect in high school.
“I just feel like my talents and my hard work since I’ve been here have paid off,” said Hankins, who never got an offer from Michigan State and had to wait until late in the process to get one from the Michigan Wolverines.
“I just need to continue to work towards my goals that I have and just be a leader for my team and help us win games.”
An early NFL mock draft on SportsIllustrated.com has Hankins going No. 21 overall to the New York Jets in the 2013 NFL Draft.
That may not be a high enough projection for Hankins to think about leaving early, but the two NFL mock drafts on CBSSports.com both have him going in the top five of next year’s draft.
One has him at No. 5 overall and the other at No. 3 overall, behind a pair of quarterbacks in USC’s Matt Barkley and Arkansas’ triggerman Tyler Wilson.
“I’m going to stay here until I win a national championship. That’s my plan,” Hankins said.
“Now, if I happen to leave after my junior year because I’m projected to be the top overall pick, then I might have to go. Know what I’m saying? But if not, I’m going to stay with my teammates and enjoy my life at Ohio State.”
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