One position sure to have a fiery competition this spring for the Kansas University football team is the starting tight end spot. With the graduation of Derek Fine, sophomore Bradley Dedeaux will be the lone holdover in 2008. One of three incoming freshmen who will have a shot to earn the seat at the table is in-state product Tanner Hawkinson. The 6-foot-6, 245-pounder out of McPherson had 30 catches for 500 yards and five TDs as a senior, which followed up a 24-catch, 363-yard, nine-score showing in 2006. Hawkinson seems to be a natural fit for Ed Warinner's spread offense with his athleticism and size being an asset when splitting out wide. He signed his letter of intent Wednesday morning, then later in the day took some time to chat with Ryan Greene.
Ryan Greene: There's a lot of buzz that you're one of the guys who could play right away. Do you think that at this point in time you're capable of that? Or what do you got to do before the season starts to put yourself in that position?
Tanner Hawkinson: I definitely need to get bigger as far as strength and stuff to be able to compete at the next level, and just kinda mature a little bit as far as getting in the mindset that I could compete at the next level and be able to play with that level of competition.
RG: From what you can tell, how does the tight end position fit into this new offense? What do you think you bring to the table that would make you be able to fit into this new offense that Ed Warinner has?
TH: They definitely like to spread the ball around quite a bit and I know they like to split the tight end out every once in awhile. And I feel that I'm athletic enough where if I get matched up with a linebacker, if I'm either split out or in tight, I have a good chance of being able to beat them on my route and get open, just use my athletic ability. I feel that I fit pretty good in the whole spread offense due to that.
RG: How do you think that's different than the traditional tight end role that maybe you'd play in high school? Did you split out a lot in high school or was it more traditional?
TH: It was a little of both. I probably was in tight more than I was split out wide, but it's whatever with me. Depending on the offense, I can do whatever.
RG: How do your basketball skills you think translate to playing tight end, especially in an offense where you're going to be playing upright a lot and split out?
TH: As far as just catching ability, going up and getting a jump ball is kinda like getting a rebound, and I can kinda get a defender behind me kinda like I'm boxing him out, using my body to shield them off me so I can make a clean catch.
RG: With a basketball background, as a KU football recruit, do you look at KU still as a basketball school? How hard is it to look at KU not just as a basketball school anymore?
TH: It's definitely a little different. I know for the past quite a few years everyone's looked at it as a basketball powerhouse, which it has been. But you can't really deny that it's kinda turned the corner and become a great football school as well after the season that they had last year. I mean, Orange Bowl champions, you can't really ask too much more than that.
RG: You got in on KU as far as a commitment before that 12-1 run started. How did it feel to watch KU progress as the season went? Were you able to puff your chest about it a little bit?
TH: I guess so. It was really nice to see them finally do well. Last season it was a pretty tough season for them, I know they had a lot of close losses that could have been wins for them. They could have had a great year last year, as well. But this year they just put everything together and had a really great year, and they were a really fun, exciting team to watch.
RG: What was your favorite thing to watch this year as they went 12-1?
TH: Just kinda how their presence on the field every week, they seemed to go out there and just get the job done. They played pretty well for as long a season as they had, to just go in there and get the job done it seemed like.
RG: What do you like most about this new offense that they introduced this year?
TH: I think just spreading the ball around quite a bit, they get a lot of receivers involved. Just kinda sharing the wealth as far as receiving, making the defense have to guess a lot more, which gets other guys open and creates a lot more opportunities for chances to score.
RG: What about Todd Reesing at quarterback? What do you like about the way he plays that position? Do you see you two working well together down the line?
TH: He always seems to find some way to get the ball to the open guy, whether it be scrambling or just...it seems like he scrambles every play. He's just a great playmaker and always seems to find the open guy.
RG: What do you think about the rest of this recruiting class?
TH: It looks pretty good as far as what the coaches have been trying to fill, positions I mean. They got most of the ones they're trying to fill answered, so it looks like a pretty solid class.
RG: Well, there's three tight ends in this class. Do you see some pretty good competition going into camp for the starting spot with Derek Fine having graduated?
TH: Definitely. Whenever you have an open opportunity like that, you're gonna have some great competitions in practice. The football camp I attended this summer, the Super Jayhawk camp, Tim Biere was there, as well. So I've been able to work with him a little bit, and we've got some good competition coming up here in the future.