Better Know a Buckeye: Cedrick Hawkins is a Versatile, Ballhawking Safety Who Could Make Early Impact on Special Teams

By Josh Poloha on June 22, 2023 at 10:10 am
Cedrick Hawkins

Better Know A Buckeye is our look at every member of Ohio State’s 2023 recruiting class and how they became Buckeyes as they prepare to begin their OSU careers this fall.

One of four players (and the only non-receiver) from Florida in Ohio State's 2023 recruiting class, Cedrick Hawkins is ranked as the No. 35 safety (No. 355 overall) in the 2023 cycle.

Cedrick Hawkins

  • Size: 6-0/175
  • Position: S
  • School: Cocoa (Cocoa, Florida)
  • 247 Composite: ★★★★
  • Composite Rank: #35 S
  • Overall Rank: #355

How He Became A Buckeye

Hawkins was the second commitment that eventually signed with Ohio State in the 2023 cycle, even before Perry Eliano took over as the defensive backs coach.

It was the timing of his commitment that was surprising. While the Buckeyes were slugging it out against Utah in the 2022 Rose Bowl, Hawkins was busy deciding which school he would inevitably suit up for in college.

Midway through the second quarter of that game, Hawkins announced his commitment to Ohio State – one that no one saw coming, at least given the timing, after he visited Columbus just once in June 2021. There had been no indication that he was close to committing to the Buckeyes, yet Jim Knowles had his first commitment on that side of the ball less than a month after taking over as OSU's defensive coordinator.

Hawkins told Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford, who is in charge of recruiting the state of Florida for the Buckeyes and was Hawkins' lead recruiter, of his decision a few days prior. Still, the announcement waited until the new year began.

High School Years

Hawkins began playing varsity football in eighth grade. As a freshman, he totaled 63 tackles, 13 pass breakups and five interceptions (including 214 return yards) while playing both at safety and cornerback and on special teams. Hawkins was named a Florida Today All-Space Coast first-team selection.

As a sophomore, the MaxPreps Preseason Sophomore All-American tallied 29 tackles and four interceptions and also returned kicks and punts for Cocoa.

In his junior year, Hawkins finished with a career-high 117 total tackles (three for loss), four interceptions, 10 pass deflections and three fumble recoveries. Given his usage as a single-high safety, the fact that he had that many tackles is mindboggling. He also had 279 return yards including a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown while leading Cocoa to an 11-2 record and the FHSAA Class 4A State Championship game.

As a senior, Hawkins had 50 tackles, one interception and three passes defended in 13 games while helping lead Cocoa to a state title.

While showing his prowess in the defensive backfield, Hawkins also caught 38 passes for 671 yards and five touchdowns and totaled nearly 1,000 all-purpose yards as a wide receiver over the course of his high school career. He even got 14 carries out of the backfield as Cocoa maximized Hawkins' athleticism and playmaking ability as much as it possibly could.

Hawkins also showed off his speed on the track throughout his time in high school. He was a regional qualifier in the 200-meter dash as a junior after posting a top time of 22.46 seconds.

Immediate Impact

If Hawkins sees the field early on in his Ohio State career, it will likely come on special teams, where he already proved to be a playmaker throughout his time in high school.

With Ohio State's depth chart at safety filled with the likes of Josh Proctor, Lathan Ransom, Ja'Had Carter, Sonny Styles, Cameron Martinez and Kourt Williams, among others, Hawkins will have plenty of time to learn the speed of the college game and Jim Knowles' defense. Not only are all of those players in front of him on the depth chart in his first season, but Hawkins is also the lowest-ranked safety in Ohio State's three-safety 2023 class, behind Malik Hartford and Jayden Bonsu (all three are four-star prospects).

While he proved his ball-hawking ability, his instincts to read running plays well and tremendous aggression flying to the ball carrier throughout his time at Cocoa, he will need to gain the trust of Ohio State's defensive coaching staff in the back end before he will play a substantial role in the Buckeye secondary.

Long-Term Impact

Although Proctor is entering his final year of eligibility and Ransom will be a candidate to enter the 2024 NFL draft, Hawkins must adjust to the college level quickly if he wants a chance to compete for a spot on the two-deep as a sophomore. With the number of safeties in front of him to start his career, it’s more realistic that Hawkins will contend for substantial playing time in his third season as a Buckeye.

That said, the 6-foot, 175-pound safety will look to prove he has the athleticism, versatility and ballhawking ability to make an impact on Ohio State’s defense sooner than later.

“I can bring a lot to the table,” Hawkins told Eleven Warriors. “I can get things done from wherever I’m at on the field.” 

Player Comparison: Lathan Ransom

Ransom's versatility and instincts are what have made him a key part of Ohio State's secondary and one of the leaders of the Buckeye defense going into the 2023 season.

After playing occasionally as a freshman, Ransom played in 12 games as a sophomore before taking off as a junior. In 2022, the defensive back totaled 74 tackles (3.5 for loss), 1.5 sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery and three passes defended as he was named a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist. Look for him to have even more confidence in himself in his second year in Knowles' defense, the same type of learning curve Hawkins will eventually have.

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