Hawkins is a bit more savvy on the field.
While relaying calls and making checks, Hawkins confident in disguising what coverage he's in, showing a blitz look when he actually isn't rushing the passer -- that cat and mouse game with the quarterback.
"It's kind of like playing chess, even though I don't know how to play chess," he said at the West End Zone on Monday.
That's what 14-straight games as Clemson's starter in the middle at MIKE linebacker spot will do for a young player.
"Compared to last year, at this time, I'm so much more comfortable," he said. "I can't even sit here and explain to you how comfortable I am. I'm comfortable. It helps a lot. It helps me do a lot. It takes a lot of pressure off of you, especially when you're on the field and you have to be the signal caller.
"You don't want to be all tight and wound-up when you have to make the calls, then go out and do your job also." (Roy Philpott)
Hawkins logged 758 snaps in 13 games last season, all of which he started. He finished the year with 71 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and three sacks.
After last year's game at North Carolina, Hawkins truly felt comfortable with what he was doing. In 66 snaps against the Tar Heels, he had nine tackles, including one for loss.
"North Carolina, they did so much stuff. I was just like, 'What in the world?' When I got in the game, I made all the calls correctly. I got everybody lined up," he said. "I was pretty proud of myself. I did what I was supposed to do and I got everybody right against them."
Now, five days before the 2011 season opener against Troy, Hawkins said he is proud of the Tigers' eight months of preparation.
"It's been a lot of sweat, a lot of running, a lot of talking about what the season is going to be like," he said. "We're ready."