Chris Hawkins is one of the premier cornerback prospects on the West Coast. He followed up a strong season at Rancho Cucamonga (CA) High School with a stellar spring, making his presence felt on both the camp and 7-on-7 circuits.
In fact, Hawkins made his pledge to USC shortly after wrapping up the defensive back MVP award at the Los Angeles Nike Camp in which he didn't allow a single reception during the 1-on-1 portion of the event. He selected the Trojans over the Stanford Cardinal, but also received scholarship offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Boise State, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Houston, LSU, Michigan, Mississippi and a host of others. Hawkins carries a consensus four-star rating from most of the major services.
Strengths: Ball skills, Footwork, Length
Questions: Size (5'11, 175), Hip flexibility
Hawkins is a slender player with a fairly thin frame. But, he has great length for a smaller cornerback and has valuable experience as his high school runs a variety of coverages in the defensive secondary. He's balanced in his drop, and although he could stay a bit lower in his backpedal, he maintains his leverage and doesn't swing his hips open prematurely.
In press man coverage Hawkins displays some physicality as he will use his length to re-route receivers and not allow them to gain a clean release off the line of scrimmage. He transitions well out of his backpedal and has the long speed to run stride for stride on vertical routes when isolated on an island.
Hawkins displays a nice burst when tracking the ball downfield and has plus-level ball skills. Those traits, combined with his length, allow him to make his share of plays on the ball in addition to providing sticky coverage. In off-man situations, Hawkins likes to employ a "triangle technique," reading the quarterback's drop as a way of keying him in on what pattern an opposing receiver is likely to run against him.
Hawkins does have a bit of tightness in his hips and lacks suddenness when asked to plant and redirect, so he will give up his share of separation on sharply-breaking routes. This is primarily evident in those off-man situations where there is natural airspace between Hawkins and the opposing receiver. Often, he doesn't have enough short area burst to close the gap in time to make a play on the ball, and resorts to simply making the tackle.
Hawkins is a willing run defender who will lower his shoulder into a ball carrier. But he will need to build more functional strength in order to contribute consistently in run support.
Hawkins will likely need some time in the weight room to accumulate additional bulk. More specifically, the upper body strength needed to press and re-route receivers at the next level. He profiles best as a field corner in the long term. Hawkins could contribute initially as a gunner on special teams, play the slot corner position as a sophomore and blossom into a starter his junior and senior years.