Hawkins could return kicks

It's September 1st 2007 and the Commodores are getting ready to kick off their 2007 season against the Richmond Spiders. Vanderbilt wins the coin toss and elects to receive. The Spiders kickoff to Vanderbilt and the highflying ball approaches a Commodore player at the goal line. Wait! who's this? It's Jared Hawkins standing and waiting for the ball.

Hawkins catches the ball and bolts forward behind his blockers. A nice block by Broderick Stewart helps spring him forward to the 27-yard-line where a Spider player is waiting to hammer him. Just as Hawkins is about to be pummeled when he shifts quickly to his right and the Spider misses.

Hawkins now kicks in the after burners and bolts to the Spider 45 where another Richmond player tries to make a diving tackle but misses and only slightly grasps Hawkins right ankle as he bolts down the sidelines. Hawkins stumbles but quickly regains his footing. Only one man to beat now, the kicker, and he's a tough one, like Vandy's Bryant Hahnfeldt. The fearless kicker meets with Hawkins at the 22-yard-line of the Spiders but Hawkins, who benches 400 pounds, stiff arms him and knocks him to the ground. Hawk then glides effortlessly into the end zone for a Commodore TOUCHDOWN!

Jared Hawkins as a kick returner? Could this be? It certainly could and why not? Hawkins is one of the strongest men on the team for his size and possesses blazing speed. He's proven runner who could thrive as a returner. During his freshman year as a tailback Hawkins rushed for an impressive average 7 yards per carry on 43 touches (298 yards). Vanderbilt is looking to improve on its kick return average during the 2007 season. With Jeff Jennings returning at tailback it makes sense to find ways to get the ball into Hawkins hands so kick returning makes sense for Hawkins.

Always a team player, Hawkins is glad to help his team in anyway but especially likes to have the ball in his hands, "They haven't really talked me, I was on the depth chart and they put me in there so that's what I do. They have me at first team right now. Any chance I can get the ball I'll take it; I'm excited about it," said the red shirt sophomore from Texas.

Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson is optimistic about Hawkins as a returner but is taking a wait and see attitude, "He's a good runner. He's proven he can run with the football under his arm so we are going to give him a shot," said Johnson. "We don't really know, we haven't done anything live," continued the Commodore skipper.

Football teams rarely go live (full tackle) with kick/punt returns in practice due to danger of injuries during these functions. We may not know for sure if Hawkins will work out as a returner until September 1st. My guess: he'll do just fine.

Will Jared Hawkins be returning kickoffs for Vanderbilt during the 2007 season? Stay tuned to VandyMania.com for more.


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