Fifth-round pick Tanner Hawkinson didn’t get much recognition in college while playing at the University of Kansas, as he endured two coaching changes and four losing seasons. After he was drafted by the Bengals, most viewed him as a project who would “at-best” make the practice squad and hopefully develop into a quality backup in 2-3 years.
Fast-forward to the team’s fifth OTA session today, and Hawkinson was once again running with the first team offense at both tackle spots with Andre Smith absent and Andrew Whitworth out while recovering from knee surgery.
It was quite a bit getting thrown in there right away but it’s what you want as a player. That way you learn the system a lot quicker, get acclimated to the type of play even if it’s just in helmet. It’s been great.
Whitworth wasn’t exactly a highly-regarded player coming out of LSU in 2006 either, and he’s become one of the game’s best tackles, and is serving as a great resource for Hawkins:
He (Whitworth) doesn’t say something after every play, but he pulls me over a lot to talk to me. He’s been a great resource. It’s pretty much going over what Coach Alexander teaches because it’s different than what I had. He gives me tips that might make it a little easier to catch on to those techniques a little quicker.
Hawkinson isn’t exactly a finished product, and there’s no telling just how good of an NFL lineman he can become. He was expected to play tight end when he arrived at Kansas, but moved to defensive end during his redshirt season before finally being moved to offensive tackle.
There, he would tally 48 consecutive starts and eventually earning All-Big 12 second-team selection, and finished his college career as the University of Kansas record-holder for games started, as well as consecutive games started.
Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander has already said in a previous interview that Hawkinson isn’t here to earn a spot on the practice squad like most project him to do, but instead look to claim one of the 53 roster spots on the opening day roster:
I’m very happy to get the kid. He’s smart, he’s a great character guy, team captain, very competitive, a nice All-American boy. He’s a very versatile guy. He’s going to play all the spots and make everyone’s seat a little uncomfortable.
He’s kind of a young guy bodywise. (He’s) maybe a little bit behind some others, and is going to mature and get stronger and grow into it and, hopefully, be a great NFL player.
He plays the piano. We may have to play a duet together.