Most Important Buckeyes: No. 6
By Patrick Murphy
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Johnathan Hankins committed to Ohio State’s 2010 class, few people could have predicted the impact the big man from Michigan would have on the Buckeye football team during his tenure.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The class contained higher ranked high school players such as Carlos Hyde, Corey Brown and Christian Bryant, while Hankins was not even ranked by Rivals at his position.
Despite the slight on rankings, people could tell in limited time during his freshman season that Hankins had the potential to be something special. While he played in all 13 games that year, he was not quite yet the terror Big Ten offenses would come to know. There was still something about the freshman that made those who follow the Buckeyes take notice.
Two years later and Hankins had become a starter and an impact player on Ohio State’s defense. He was someone the opponent would always account for, but could rarely contain. His unique size and speed helped him clog the middle of the Buckeyes’ defensive line over the last two years.
His natural abilities, along with his development at Ohio State, have made him a coveted prospect by NFL teams. His decision to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL Draft was no surprise to Buckeye fans that were thankful for Hankins’ three years on campus.
Coming from a team that one year ago did not have a player selected in the first round, it is obvious why the man projected to go in the top 15 picks is No. 6 on our postseason countdown of the Most Important Buckeyes.
What Made Him Important?
With a player like Hankins, this question is easy for anyone who watched the Buckeyes play. While his statistics are not earth shattering – 55 tackles, four for a loss – his influence was felt during all 12 games he played.
Photo by Dan Harker
He may not have been the greatest pass rusher, at least statistically, the 6-3, 322 pound Hankins had the size needed to make him a great Big Ten defensive tackle. When size like that is coupled with the speed and quickness that Hankins possess and has learned to harness, the opposition better be ready.
Big Hank consistently made it easier for his fellow lineman to get the job done. The double teams Hankins faced in the middle of the line meant that guys like John Simon and Nathan Williams usually had one-on-one matchups on the outside.
It also allowed for easier penetration for the linebackers who were blitzing through the interior of the line. If a team schemed for Hankins, it opened up room for at least one of his teammates. If they did not, they had to deal with the consequences of letting Big Hank go one-on-one.
Interior lineman who can command a double team like Hankins are not a dime a dozen. This factor did not go unnoticed by fans, the media – he was named second-team Associated Press All-American – or the NFL scouts who are giving him high enough ratings to make him a first-round pick.
His leadership was also important for Ohio State. While there were many veterans on the defense, especially the defensive line, Hankins was an example to the younger players who will replace him. Sophomore Michael Bennett and freshman Tommy Schutt will both benefit from being around and playing with a monster like Hankins.
What Would the Buckeyes Have Done Without Him?
It goes without saying that things would have been different if Hankins had not been a part of the Buckeyes’ defensive unit. His importance, stated above, is unquestioned and would have created a big hole for Urban Meyer and his staff to fill.
More than once this season the fans at Ohio Stadium saw number 52 remain on the turf after the play in pain. Each time there was concern felt around the stadium that was only matched when Braxton Miller went down with apparent injury.
Buckeyes fans are a knowledgeable group, and they realized what a loss it would be if Hankins did not shortly return to the game, not to mention if he missed extended time.
While Bennett – who would have likely slotted in to Hankins position – had experience playing in each game in 2011, he has not yet risen to the level of Big Hank. This would have resulted in more attention to guys like Simon, meaning less production overall from the defensive line.
If not for Hankins in the middle, Ohio State would likely have not have been as successful pressuring quarterbacks and stopping running backs. The big man was a big reason the Buckeyes averaged two and half sacks a game and were generally able to control the line as the year went on.
He also allowed for the younger players at his position to develop slowly, gaining experience when they were needed but not being required to do more than they were ready for. If Bennett was forced to play more, that would have meant Schutt would also have seen more time.
This easily could have been a negative for Ohio State, as many players who see time too early do not mature the way they need to. Hankins is an example of how, when a player with clear potential is brought along slowly, he can flourish into a top collegiate player and first-round NFL pick.
While statistically Hankins was not the best player on the field, it is clear that he had an effect on his team did not go unnoticed by those that matter the most: his coaches, the fans, and the NFL. While no one’s future is certain, Hankins seems primed for a productive NFL career and the Buckeyes will need to fill his shoes next season.
How Does it Compare to Our Preseason Expectations?
After the 6-7 season of a year ago, the new coaching staff had many things to fix, but one thing that was for sure was that Hankins would have a big influence on this season. This was shown by his preseason expectations being so high, No. 3.
His lack of huge numbers may have dropped him a little bit for the end of season position, but his importance remains the same. The statistical expectations may have been too high for someone who was clearly going to be essential for every team to slow down. Therefore, how influential he was to this team may not be felt until next season when he is no longer present.
There is no question that Johnathan Hankins was a beast throughout his tenure at Ohio State. While he may not have been the big-time recruit out of high school, he certainly is going to be highly sought after at the next level after a dominating college career.
Most Important Countdown:
No. 7 Bradley Roby
No. 8 Reid Fragel
No. 9 Philly Brown
No. 10 Jack Mewhort
No. 11 Devin Smith
No. 12 Corey Linsley
No. 13 Nathan Williams
No. 14 Christian Bryant
No. 15 Etienne Sabino
No. 16 Andrew Norwell
No. 17 Travis Howard
No. 18 C.J. Barnett
No. 19 Garrett Goebel
No. 20 Kenny Guiton
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