Penn State is the favorite for a blue-chip receiver from Florida’s famous IMG Academy.
Jerrae “Tank” Hawkins Jr. is fast. His speed led him to become West Virginia’s AAA state track meet champion in both the 100 and 200-meter dashes as a sophomore and Florida indoor state champion in the 60m dash. A message from IMG’s sprint coach, Dwight Thomas, eventually led him to leaving Wheeling Park High School in West Virginia for IMG.
His speed has also helped make him a quality football player.
Last season, Hawkins- originally from Fredericksburg but moved to West Virginia before his freshman year- had 1,127 yards and 14 touchdowns for Wheeling Park. That production has played a big part in his four-star rating.
Thirteen schools have offered Hawkins, including Boston College, Cincinnati, Louisville, Maryland, Pitt, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia and Wisconsin, in addition to Penn State.
Hawkins told Nittany Sports Now that, right now, Penn State would “probably be Number 1” on his list.
So why is Penn State No. 1?
A big reason is a bond Hawkins is building with Penn State’s new receivers coach, Marques Hagans.
Like Hawkins, Hagans is from Virginia, which doesn’t hurt. Penn State offered Hawkins at the school’s annual Lasch Bash this past July, long before Hagans got hired last month.
But after Hagans got the job, Assistant Recruiting Coordinator for Personnel Rashad Rich made it a point to facetime Hawkins and introduce him to Hagans.
Since then, Hawkins and Hagans have gotten to know each other, and Hawkins says they talk every other day.
Penn State consistently checking in on Hawkins is something that he greatly appreciates.
“Just the consistency of them talking to me,” Hawkins said. “Mainly that, honestly.”
Hawkins also likes being at Penn State and plans to return in April.
Penn State fans who are familiar with Hawkins like his speed. He reportedly ran a 4.25 40-yard dash at an Ohio State camp. He’s only 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, but his speed is something else.
247Sports’ Southeast Recruiting Analyst Andrew Ivins described Hawkins as a “verified burner.”
“Doesn’t have much meat on the bone,” Ivins wrote in his scouting report earlier this month, “but is a dynamic playmaker in the slot that causes plenty of issues for opposing defenses with his footspeed. Can not only run past corners and safeties on deep vertical routes, but also scoot away from would-be tacklers in the open field as he has the ability to turn quick screens and short slants into big gains with his wiggle, vision and burst.”
Hawkins described himself as “elusive, electric, fast and smart.”
With a year of high school football left, there’s still plenty that Hawkins could improve.
“Catching in traffic,” he said. “High-pointing passes and stuff like that.”
This lines up with what Ivins wrote.
“Tracks the football well for a youngster, but a smaller catch radius isn’t exactly ideal. Neither is the lack of real core strength. Will eventually need to add some body armor to a rather slender frame if he wants to be more than just a gadget player on Saturdays.”
With that said, Ivins feels Hawkins’s “ability to create separation in the deeper third one play and then slip out of tackles the next is worth a roster spot.”
When he returns to Penn State, Hawkins wants to see more of the school’s facilities.
“The last time I was there, I went to a game (Ohio, Sept. 10), and the other visit was to a camp,” Hawkins said. “So I really didn’t get to see campus really that much.”
Hawkins has his sites set on being at Beaver Stadium for Penn State’s annual White Out game this season.