Offensive Line Coach PAUL ALEXANDER
Kansas head coach Charlie Weis said Hawkinson’s feet were as good as any lineman he had in college football:
PA: “He has exceptionally quick feet, like Steinbach, really. He has Steinbach’s feet, which was really impressive. He’s not Steinbach. He’s an impressive kid, he really is. We had him high on our board coming in first thing this morning. We didn’t think he’d be there by now, we really didn’t. He’s weird; some people have him lower, some people have him higher. It depends what you got. The big negative was he did 13 (reps) on the bench at his Pro Day. Which 13 on the bench? Come on. But the issue was he jammed his wrist a couple weeks before doing some pass pro drills and only had two weeks to prepare for it. We got a confirmation from his strength coach that he done 19, which isn’t great, but it’s better than 13. So he’s got to get stronger; that’s his issue. It’s easier to get a little stronger than it is to get quicker feet; I know that. We’ve had some good guys that started out as tight ends; Steinbach was, Rich Braham was. Levi Jones was a defensive player and all the kind of stuff. So I like that in a player who has that athleticism.”
Do you see him playing tackle and guard?
PA: “I told him he’s going to get worked at guard, center and tackle. He started one year at right tackle and then he started three years at left tackle. He’s a very versatile guy. He’s going to play all the spots and make everyone’s seat a little uncomfortable.”
So both tackle and guard?
PA: “Whoever has a bad practice, I’m going to put him right behind him the next day (laughs). So yeah, he can play (both).”
You have a ton of versatility at guard after signing
PA: “Yeah we’re going to be a big happy family.”
Has Hawkinson every played center?
PA: “He has not played center. He trained with Hudson Houck, the great line coach. I guess he had six sessions with him. You know he was the Cowboys line coach and at USC, all that kind of stuff. I talked to Hudson this morning and he thought his best position was actually center. He didn’t discount the other positions. He’s certainly smart enough.”
You’ve had success last year moving Robinson to center:
PA: “Robinson, he was a natural center. We kind of had a similar grade; we had like a fourth-round grade on Robinson last year. We really liked him. So they’re similar guys.”
This has turned out to be a big week for the Bengals offensive line after re-signing
PA: “Yeah it was nice. He waited until the last possible second. Mike (Brown) brought him in the draft room and showed him we had (Menelik) Watson on the top of our board. He said, ‘It’s a good thing you signed.’”
Did Andre Smith appear in good shape to you when you saw him yesterday?
PA: “Yeah. Let me tell you, he was a good player this year. He had a good year and he’s a tremendous run blocker and his pass protection got better and I think it’s going to keep getting better. We’re certainly happy he’s back. It allowed us to, really, get the runner in the second round, it did. So we added a player.”
Had Andre Smith not signed yesterday, was it possible you would’ve drafted Menelik Watson?
PA: (laughs) “It’s a very strong possibility.”
TH: “(Laughs) Yeah, I guess. That nickname kind of came around during freshman year. Some of my teammates started calling me Ricky Bobby. I don’t know, I guess I have a little resemblance to Will Ferrell, I just don’t see it too much. Other people see it more than me.”
What are your thoughts on coming to Cincinnati?
TH: “Obviously I’m really excited. I’m blessed to have this opportunity. Obviously I would’ve been happy wherever I went, but obviously Cincinnati was the team that picked me up. I’m really excited to get there. I know they have a great organization there. And they’ve had some really good years the last couple years. I’m just really excited to get up there and get started.”
Have you had any conversations with current Bengals OT and former Kansas player
TH: “I’d talk to him when he’d come around KU a couple of years ago, but I haven’t really talked to him recently. But it’s another KU guy up there, so it’ll be good to have.”
Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander just told us that you have great feet, but you need to get stronger. Is that accurate?
TH: “Yeah. That’s one of the areas I need to improve upon, and it’s something that I’ve been hitting hard. I’m going to have to continue to work at it. It’s something I need to improve on.”
You’re a converted tight end, and it sounds like you can play a variety of spots on the offensive line. How much experience do you have at those spots — OT, G and C?
TH: “I three years at left tackle and one year at right tackle. Throughout this whole process leading up to the draft, I was able to work with a really good former offensive line coach, Hudson Houck, and he had us working a lot at all positions — guard, snapping the ball — just to make sure we knew how vital it was to know all the positions. I haven’t had any in-game experience at guard or center, but I’m confident I can pick those up quickly.”
You’ve had some coaching changes during your time at Kansas, which means you had different coaches teaching you different techniques. Do you think that is beneficial to you as you enter the NFL?
TH: “Yeah. Like you said, different coaches teach different techniques. I’ve had to deal with that throughout my career. It’ll be nice to play for a good offensive line coach in Coach (Paul) Alexander. I know he’s going to get me straight, and it’ll definitely help me out.”
Did you have an injury during your pro day that affected your bench press numbers (13 reps)?
TH: “Not necessarily. I had a little wrist injury from training, so I didn’t really get to hit the bench as hard as I would’ve liked to. So that hampered me a little bit.”
It sounds like you’re a renaissance man — you play the piano, you’re a good student. Tell us a little bit about you, aside from football ...
TH: “Piano wasn’t my first choice. It was kind of forced upon me by my mom at a young age. I played it for about 10 years, up until about my junior or senior year of high school. I pretty much enjoy anything outdoors. I spend a lot of time at a cabin we have, a little lake house. I love the outdoors, love to fish. I just hang out with friends, outside of football.”
In the Big 12 conference, you played against some pretty good competition. Who was some of the better competition you faced while at Kansas?
TH: “Definitely. The Big 12 is one of the top conferences in the nation, so playing against some top talent week-in and week-out definitely prepared me up to this point. I was able to play against a lot of good guys.?”
What has today been like, knowing that you were likely to be selected at some point?
TH: “It’s wild. Like you said, it’s at some point, and you really don’t know when that point is. So you’re just kind of waiting around for that phone call, and luckily I got it from Cincinnati. It was a pretty big relief to finally get that phone call.”