After a seesaw-like recruitment in which he reportedly favored Penn State, Ohio State, and Cincinnati at various times, four-star defensive tackle Aeneas Hawkins is officially pledged to become a Nittany Lion after his verbal commitment on Thursday. The Archbishop Moeller star joins what is quickly becoming a loaded defensive line group, along with PJ Mustipher, Dorian Hardy, and Judge Culpepper.
When Hawkins spoke to Roar Lions Roar back in February, he broke down his game for us by talking about who he likes to model his own style after.
"My two favorite players to watch play are Geno Atkins, I still think he's underrated, and Aaron Donald. Actually, I'm going to have the opportunity to work out with [Donald] this spring with my uncle, I can't wait for that. For me, I'm a 6'2/6'3 guy, I weigh about 260, but I feel like the similarity between all three of us is that we're athletic and we play hard. So when I watch them play, you see the recruiters, they recruit tackles at 6'6 320, that's cool, I don't have a problem with that, I understand that. But the two best d-tackles in the game aren't 340 pounds, they're guys like me who can move and play hard. That's encouraging for me. I think we're the new breed of defensive linemen coming up to match the spread offense. Those are two guys I study more than anyone else."
Penn State has had a lot of success with the players they've plugged into the 3-tech role on their line, but Hawkins should end up being one of the best to play the position.
Listed at just 265 pounds, he's hardly the biggest guy along the line, but makes up for that deficiency (if you want to call it that) with his fantastic speed. He bursts off the snap and uses his hands and a few different speed-based rush moves to terrorize quarterbacks and running backs behind the line of scrimmage. Just ask former high school rival and future teammate Sean Clifford.
Anthony Zettel is a recent comparison that makes a good deal of sense for Hawkins. Both were/are slightly unconventionally sized for the defensive tackle position, yet both did/should find success thanks to their above average speed at the position. Hawkins does a great job of using that speed to get after the quarterback and track down ball carriers. As he and his fellow defensive linemen will learn at the next level, gap discipline and assignment recognition are far more important than knowing 10 different ways to sack a quarterback.
Thanks to improving depth at the defensive tackle position, Hawkins won't need to play during his freshman year unless he forces the issue with his work in practice. A redshirt year would do Hawkins good, as bulking up just a bit more would help him combat the bigger and stronger collegiate-level offensive linemen.