Daxton Hill is the talked about safety at Michigan, but Brad Hawkins deserves all of the accolades that may come his way. The graduate student will return for 2021 and use his Covid year to hopefully develop into an NFL talent. He has already come a long way but has an unknown ceiling. Be sure to keep an eye on him throughout the season this fall.
The story so far
Hawkins originally graduated from Camden High School in Camden, New Jersey, along with his future teammate at Michigan, Ron Johnson. If Camden sounds familiar it’s because it was the home of Cesar Ruiz before his transfer to IMG Academy. Hawkins took a prep year at Suffield Academy and eventually enrolled at Michigan with the class of 2017.
Originally a wide receiver and part of the class of 2016, Hawkins would have been a part of a national receiver class that included A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, and N’Keal Harry. His reclassification put him with the likes of Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, and Tarik Black at Michigan alone. It’s safe to say that Hawkins was a bit of a forgotten man following his prep year. However, that’s not to say that the talent wasn’t there.
Hawkins was listed at 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds coming out of high school. For context, he is now listed at 220 pounds. A three-star recruit, he was ranked 425th nationally and the 66th best wide receiver by 247Sports. Recruited by Chris Partridge, Michigan eventually secured Hawkins’ commitment over the likes of Auburn, Florida, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and predominantly South Carolina.
Appearing in 12 games as a freshman, Hawkins played exclusively on special teams in 2017. It’s unclear when the position switch was officially made, but by his sophomore season, Brad had officially switched to playing safety. This was likely a good move due to a clogged up depth chart at receiver. As a sophomore in 2018, Hawkins played in all 13 games on special teams and rotated in with the safeties in eight games.
As a junior, his development finally began to take off. Brad routinely was a run-stopping force at safety but struggled in coverage at times. He was named the defense’s most improved player and finally began to look at home in the secondary. By no means was he an NFL prospect yet, but he had become a consistent starter at the Big Ten level.
Returning for his senior year in 2020, Hawkins hoped to become an NFL prospect. Due to the circumstances of the season and Michigan’s disastrous secondary play, it’s safe to say that never materialized. However, not all of that can be put on the safeties.
Outlook for 2021
Hawkins announced on Twitter in January that he would use the extra year granted to him because of Covid-19.
This gives new Michigan defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald with a locked-in safety group of Daxton Hill and Brad Hawkins. This is no doubt a luxury for a new coordinator.
Hawkins has developed slowly over his whole career and hopes to continue to do so in 2021. His track record of getting better every single year gives me no doubt that he will be even better than we’ve seen him. With that being said, he will have to come a long way to appear on NFL draft boards. His athleticism is elite, however, he needs to solidify his coverage and awareness.
He should be entrenched as a starter all season this fall. I would not be surprised to see him acquire some all-conference honors, though all-American honors seem unlikely. Given how young and inexperienced the Michigan defense will be as a whole, his veteran leadership will undoubtedly be welcomed. Hawkins’ return is a major boost for the Michigan program in the short term.