Easier Said Than Done: Replacing Johnathan Hankins

By Kyle Rowland on December 27, 2012 at 10:00a

In early December, Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins announced that he would forego his senior season as a Buckeye and enter the NFL Draft. Life went on in Columbus without much reaction, because Hankins’ decision didn’t surprise many. The 6-foot-3, 322-pound tour de force was a wrecking ball for three seasons, his NFL career inevitable. 

Urban Meyer enjoyed the hell out of Johnathan Hankins for one yearTheir time together was too short.

Hankins, a first-team All-Big Ten selection and second-team All-American, leaves Ohio State with a legacy that cannot be fully quantified by the stat sheet. He had 138 career tackles, five sacks and 21 tackles for loss. In 2012, Hankins was fifth on the team with 55 tackles and only one involved the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage. But one should not let that fact diminish Hankins’ value to the team.

John Simon may have been the defense’s inspirational leader, but Hankins anchored the line, offering a reassuring presence to the unit. ‘Big Hank,’ as he was known to teammates, was a low-key personality that didn’t seek attention with flashy antics. Instead, he manhandled whomever lined up across from him, made a tackle and walked back to the huddle intent on quietly doing his job on the next snap.

Now there is a giant void left on the defensive line, both literally and figuratively. But Urban Meyer has been stocking up on defensive linemen since he arrived at Ohio State in November 2011. Four D-linemen were a part of Meyer’s inaugural recruiting class and six more are expected to arrive on National Signing Day in February. 

Simon, Garrett Goebel and Nathan Williams also leave the line, which was an area of strength on the nation’s 13th-ranked rush defense. So Meyer’s recruiting strategy was not without merit. He’s of the old-school ilk that points to the offensive and defensive lines as being the most important aspects on either side of the ball. The success of his teams lends credence to their makeup.

The six true freshmen invading Columbus this fall might not be called upon so quickly. But candidates to replace Hankins are emerging from the four-man class Meyer ushered in this past February. At the top of the list is Adolphus Washington.

“Adolphus is a big kid,” defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said. “He’s a big, athletic kid. For us right now, our need was to have him play inside. He’d play wherever we needed him to, he’s that type of kid, but he’s big and athletic, and that’s a good combination.”

Serving an apprenticeship in 2012, Washington finished with nine tackles, one-third of which were sacks. When weight is considered, his stay at Ohio State has been the opposite of Hankins’. When Big Hank arrived and weighed in at 355, losing weight became a priority. Washington, on the other hand, weighed less than 250 pounds, not an ideal mass for a defensive lineman in the Big Ten.

Adolphus Washington will be called on to help replace Hankins' productivity

That’s why he gained more than 50 pounds during his first few months on campus. He gave new meaning to the term ‘Freshman 15.’ Eventually, Washington settled on the number 289 for his playing weight. That has given him the ability to be versatile, a favorite word of coaches worldwide.

“What allows me to play outside is my speed,” Washington said. “For me to be 289, I have a lot of speed, and I have a lot of power. So you combine those two, you can be very deadly coming from the outside.

“Playing inside, my power helps me a lot and my length affects me. But it kind of helps me at the same time. I just got to keep working on the inside thing, and I think one day I can dominate like Johnathan Hankins.”

It’s no coincidence that Hankins served as Washington’s big brother during fall camp. The two were paired so Washington could learn from the best. And learn he did.

One of the most important skills Hankins passed on to Washington was the art of shedding double-teams. It became a regular part of Hankins’ game day activities his final two seasons. Washington doesn’t necessarily have to be the leading tackler – he just needs to attract the attention of opposing lines.

When Hankins was doubled in 2012, it presented a risky proposition to opponents because of the depth on the rest of the line. But Simon, Goebel and Williams’ absence next season frees up that worry. Their replacements will be names like Noah Spence, Tommy Schutt, Michael Bennett, Joel Hale and Se’Von Pittman.

“Sometimes you recruit guys that are overrated,” Meyer said. “The names you just mentioned are not overrated. They’re going to be great players here. They’re going to be great players here, and I appreciate the effort. On top of it, wonderful people.”

Spence and Schutt both played in critical moments this year as true freshmen, while Bennett and Hale, both rising juniors, have been contributors their first two seasons. Meyer hopes that progression continues and that Michael Hill, Donovan Munger and rest of the 2013 signees can perform as well as their forerunners.

With the volume of highly regarded defensive linemen littering the Buckeyes’ roster, Meyer’s chances of hooking another Big Hank are upright.


Comments Show All Comments

Maestro's picture

Would love to see him in Cleveland.

vacuuming sucks

703Buckeye's picture

As much as I would like Hank to be a Brown, D-line is not a priority in Cleveland for the 2013 draft.

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

Maestro's picture

Agreed, but I would still love to see him in Cleveland.

vacuuming sucks

Buckeye Beast's picture

We'd have to use our 1st round pick to get him, we should invest on Offensive gaurds or a linebacker I think. If anything, I'd love to see us pick up John Simon more than anything. There's a shortage of Buckeyes on the Browns, & John Simon is a high motor, passion player who produces on the field. He's the kind of leader who can take a good defense to the next level. I think a John Simon or Manti Teo could make us the next elite NFL defense.

Even Squirrels hate Michigan

sir rickithda3rd's picture

i dont think there is a guard or lb worth taking in the top ten....

mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

GH_Lindsey's picture

Teo and Jarvis Jones are both top 10 worthy. At guard, maybe the guy from Bama whose name escapes me right now? Warmack?

btalbert25's picture

Jones is a stud.  That guy is worth a top 10 pick, he's going to be a great LB for a long long time. 

Jhesse17's picture

That kid is a man child

Earle's picture

Very concerned about the D-line going into next year.  Sure, we have some talented youngsters to plug in, but we're going to be soooo reliant on frosh and sophs...

Snarkies gonna snark. 

Maestro's picture

Slightly concerned, more concerned about the LB's.

vacuuming sucks

osu07asu10's picture

I think you're going to see the linebackers come out and impress next year. For starters, any unit with RDS in it is going to do some work.  What I am looking for is one of the guys from the 2012 class to step up.  I would love to see Curtis Grant be the guy (yes 2011) but I am going to hang my hat on Jamaal Marcus, David Perkins, and most notably Joshua Perry. I think Perry has the range and quickness to give us two freakishly athletic LBs in RDS and Perry.

Who is the 3rd LB you ask? For starters, we all know the nickel gets the nod over the base 4-3 and the star is a whole nother argument.

I am going to go out on a limb and say....Mike Mitchell! I know, dont' count the chickens before the eggs hatch or whatever..still RDS and Perry will make a formidable duo.

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

Ashtabula's picture

I agree that LB is a much bigger area of concern.  I have basically written Grant off because I think the coaching staff has done the same.  I also worry about the 2012 class of linebackers being able to contribute heavily...remember the coaching staff felt a re-instated Klein and a converted Boren were better options.  Although I agree with their assessments, this does tell us something about the other players they bypassed.
As for 2013 contributers, I think Johnson (oh please, oh please...knock on wood) is much more ready to contribute.

toledobuckeyefanjim's picture

I wonder what Brady Joke told Hank after the Michigan game. I saw him talking to Hank on the field. Probably something like "I hope you don't come back for your senior year because I know you'll eat my quarterbacks and running backs for lunch again."

tarheelbuck's picture

He said, "I'm bigger than u!"

"They hate us because they ain't us" - Sully

Earle's picture

I get the concern over the LB's, but we'll have Shazier back and better than ever, and I expect some of the young guys to step up.  And let's face it, could we really have much worse linebacker play than the first half of 2012?
I just think we're losing too much skill/experience/toughness/leadership on the line.  I think Bennett is solid but not convinced he'll be a consistent playmaker.  Spence and Washington showed flashes, but are they ready for full-time action?  And are we really going to bank on true (or redshirt) freshmen, no matter how good they're supposed to be? 
Not saying we won't have a good D-line, especially later in the season, but color me skeptical for now.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

GH_Lindsey's picture

Is there a good clip of Diesel beating Taylor Lewan for the sack and FF in this years Game anywhere? I need to relive that moment a few more times.

Buckeye06's picture

I think the concerns on the DL are warranted but slightly overblown.  Yes we don't know how good these guys will be, but we do know they already have a year of competing against solid competition.  They always say the biggest difference is between your frosh and soph years, so if the guys from the 201 class "get it" then I don't think it's a huge concern.
Actually same for the Lbers; I'm most concerned with our players not wanting to wrap up; that's a fundamentals issue that I seriously hope is addressed

sir rickithda3rd's picture

i think the d will start out kinda slow next yr, but then mature and be a very solid unit.

mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

RedStorm45's picture

Funny how almost every time a player comes out and says "I'm coming back for my senior year" before the season is over (Hankins, Gonzalez, Pittman, etc.), they all end up leaving anyways.
The D-Line was the strength, but the line as a whole was expected to be top 5 in the country.  They fell way short of those expectations.  There were calls all year for more pressure/sacks, and the results didn't come until later in the season.  There is some individual talent, yes, but for much of the season fans were complaining about the lack of pressure, and even Urban said we needed more blitzes dialed up apparently since rushing 4 wasn't working.  I'm not saying this as a slight on Hankins, just pointing out how quickly we forget the issues the defense had...and it wasn't like we were playing top 20 offenses week in and week out.

Buckeye06's picture

Early in the season teams were playing OSU with quick passes, so the sacks weren't there.  When OSU got against more conventional offenses, more sacks came. 
Overall I agree with you, but still feel the unit was a top 20 unit, if not top 10 or top 5 as we had imagined. 

Chise47's picture

What's the best friend of a D-line? Good coverage!
Roby,(who will be back), and Grant on the corners, Reeves in the slot,(with Eli Apple pressing to play), Bryant & Barnett as seasoned as a delicious Ribeye!! Oh Lawdy, I see sacks a plenty!!
QB sacks: Spence 10; Deisel 5; Bosa 5; Shazier 5; Miller 4; Bennett 4 Pittman 4; Moore 3; Marcus 3; Perry 3; Shutt 3; Hale 2; Hill 2; Price 1....., am I going overboard?
Well, color me Buckeye!!!
That is all.