Hanks Could Be Key At Wide Receiver

Darius Hanks wasn't looking at Alabama until he took a closer look. Now he's looking like a key performer for the Crimson Tide offense. With Alabama's 2008 offense expected to feature three receiver, Hanks is a leading candidate for a starting position in the slot.

Darius Hanks was expected to be listed as a freshman on this year's Alabama roster, but he was one of the unlucky few who played in last year's first game and lost a year of eligibility. (In order to be redshirted after seeing game action, a player must be unable to continue because of injury.) And so he goes into his sophomore season with scant statistics. In the Western Kentucky game last year he caught one pass for six yards.

After that it was the scout team.

"I can't do anything about that," Hanks said. "I wasn't expecting much as a freshman and it was big for me to get to play. I played in front of some of the big guys."

He made the best of his situation. Last year he worked on Alabama's scout team. "I was whoever was the other team's best receiver," he said. That's an indication of high expectations for this season. A better indication was what Coach Nick Saban told him.

"Since Day One, Coach Saban told me I had a chance," Hanks said. "I had to step up. And I did." Hanks met with the media following Monday's Crimson Tide practice in helmets and shoulder pads. Bama will go into full gear for the first time in fall camp Tuesday, but Hanks is likely to continue in the black jersey that indicates no contact. Earlier this week Saban said that Hanks had a shoulder injury that required surgery after spring practice and that he should be ready for contact work soon.

Hanks said that his strengths as a receiver are "my speed (he ran a 4.5 the last time he was clocked in the 40-yard dash), running good routes, and good hands." He said his weakness is his size. "But I'm working on that." The 6-0 Hanks came to Alabama at 168 and is now 178.

Hanks said the new offense under Coach Jim McElwain is a good one. His job, he said, will be to "get out, get open, and catch the ball." He said things will happen quick and the guys with him at slot, including true freshman Burton Scott and sometimes Nikita Stover, is a competitive one. "It's going to be a good group playing," he promised.

One aspect of daily practice, Hanks said, is going head-to-head with new starting cornerback Javier Arenas. "We go at it every day," he said. "Javier does a lot of talking. I talk back sometimes, but mostly I'm not a talker. I'm more laid back. I'm confident, but I'm not cocky. I don't like to brag."

Hanks was an all-state receiver at Norcross (Georgia) High School. He caught 55 passes for 857 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior. As a defensive back he turned in six interceptions.

Alabama wasn't in the picture for Hanks until Nick Saban was hired as Alabama's head coach. "He pointed out that D.J. Hall, Keith Brown and Matt Caddell were all going to be leaving and that I'd have a chance to play early."

No one knows if Saban told Julio Jones, the talented freshman on this year's squad, if he would play early. Jones has caught the attention of Hanks. "He's big and physical and talented," Hanks said.

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