Wednesday, August 17, 2011

BIG HANK NOT AS BIG, BUT READY TO MAKE A HUGE IMPACT FOR BUCKEYES

Johnathan Hankins
COLUMBUS — Ohio State defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins — known by his Buckeye teammates as "Big Hank" — has shed some serious pounds during this past offseason.

He's withered himself down to enormous.

Although the sophomore from Detroit has dropped nearly 30 pounds since last season, the big man is looking to make a huge impact on the Buckeyes defensive front — both inside and on the edge.

"I'm down to about 330 right now," Hankins said following Tuesday's practice. "I came in about 350, 355 last year. I feel light on my feet, I can get a good pass rush and play all four downs."

Hankins appeared in all 13 games last season — recording 16 tackles (1.5 for loss) and a sack as a backup — but his weight prevented him from being an every-down player. He just wasn't in the best condition to accomplish such a task.

Ohio State Co-defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said that was the main reason he pushed Hankins to drop pounds, so he would be able to play more than just one or two downs per series.

"Well, I think he can go more than two plays now," Heacock laughed. "That was the thing we talked to him about. I'd like to have him on the field more than just the first down guy or on a second-and-short saying, 'hey, let's get Hank out there and stop the run' and that type of thing.

"I'm talking to him about being an every down player. If we can get him in there being a nose guard rushing the quarterback, giving a push inside or playing run defense out on the edge, we need that on the field as much as we can."

Especially against teams like Wisconsin, who pushed the smaller Ohio State defensive front around last year for nearly 200 yards on the ground. The big, physical Badgers handed the Buckeyes their only loss of the 2010 season.

Hankins said dropping the weight has enabled him to play out on the edge as well, something that will help the Buckeyes beef up the defensive front on running downs.

"They have me at end some because of situations where we got to play against Wisconsin and teams like that," Hankins said. "It gives us an extra edge. I feel very comfortable there."

Heacock is excited about the Hankins' prospects this season.

"He's really a good football player," Heacock said. "He's gotten himself into shape, had a good offseason, he's healthy. I think he's ready to go and we're going to expect him to step up."

Thus far in camp, Hankins has been looking the part. He's quicker, stronger and his work-ethic is admirable. He's making plays all over the field, both against the run and the pass.

The slimmer Hankins looks to be a 'huge' force up front this fall for the Buckeyes.

"I'm going to make a good impact on the defense," Hankins predicted. "I'm going to help out the guys in the back, the linebackers.

"With it being my second year, I'm able to put a little bit more into it, being a starter now, just giving an all-around good effort."

BIG HANK THE NUTRITIONIST ... Now that Hankins is down to 330, he is no longer the heaviest player on the team. In fact, he's 40 pounds — according to the roster — from being the the biggest Buck.

That honor goes to true freshman offensive lineman Chris Carter.

The Cleveland native stands at 6-foot-6 and tips the scales at 370 pounds. Again, according to the roster. With the eyes, he looks like he's pushing four bills.

Hankins has his back, though, and has given him some tips to become more svelte. Or at least get south of 350.

"I told him they feed us a lot here, so he's got to watch it," Hankins laughed. "I tell him to just limit it to one meal, not two plates. I'm working on him on that right there."

BIG HANK THE SCOUT ... Hankins has taken notice of a true freshman on the defensive front, and gushed Tuesday about the Buckeyes' abilities.

Michael Bennett is the player Hankins is so excited about. The product of Centerville, Ohio has been making an early impact in camp as a defensive tackle and could see some playing time this season, perhaps as Hankins' backup inside.

"He's good," Hankins said of Bennett. "He fits in well with the team. He's just working."

Hankins said Bennett's techniques and fundamentals are extremely sound for such a young player.

"Coming in as a freshman his technique is good," Hankins said. "Everything is fundamentally sound. He's just an overall good player and helping us out very much."