Leland Stein III

Detroit Southeastern’s Hankins anchoring Ohio State defense

In sports column on November 18, 2012 at 3:03 am

Southeastern’s Hankins anchoring Ohio State defense

Detroiter’s stock rising in NFL circles.

By Leland Stein III

COMMENTARY

Detroit Southeastern’s Hankins stops MSU”s All-Big-Ten back La”Veon Bell. – Dan Graschuck photo

EAST LANSING – With ESPN College GameDay crew creating the hype on Michigan State University’s campus and an ESPN national television audience looking on, former Detroit Public School League (PSL) star Johnathan Hankins and his Ohio State Buckeyes outlasted MSU at Spartan Stadium, 17-16 in the Big Ten opener for both teams.

As I headed to the post-game interview area, I ran across former Detroit Southeastern High coach Donshell English. He had arguably two of the best defensive linemen in PSL history on a team that finished 11-1. Both Hankins and MSU’s William Gholston made All-State and were on the Michigan Chronicle ALL-PSL team. The 6-foot-7, 278 pound Gholston left the PSL the No. 1 ranked player in the state and the 6-foot3, 322 pound Hankins was the 20th.

Now Hankins and Gholston, both juniors, are ranked as the best two defensive players in the Big Ten and both are pre-season All-America picks. Recently Big Ten Network NFL draft expert Russ Lande’s weekly Big Board, flip-flopped Gholston and Hankins, making the Ohio State defensive tackle Hankins the No. 1 player in the conference, with Gholston No. 2.

English said he is not surprised that both his star players at Southeastern have continued to grow as students and athletes.

Leland Stein III

About Hankins English recalled: “Against MSU he was a force from the very first play of the game controlling the middle. You can tell the way his coach (Urban Meyer) and his teammates respond to him, he is a team leader.

“He was the quiet storm in high school, but he always gave us extra effort. He never took plays off, so I knew he would excel wherever he decided to go to college.”

Meyer told me Hankins is a great young man and excellent teammate. “He is really coming into his own, but he can get even better. He is a hard worker and he gives his heart to Ohio State football. He is surly one of our team leaders.”

With Gholston being an early commit with the Spartans, and Archie Collins, Southeastern’s defensive coordinator during those seasons, a graduate assistant with Michigan State, it would seem Hankins and Gholston would have ended up together in East Lansing.

Hankins father told reporters shaking his head: “How he got away from Michigan and Michigan State, I can’t tell you why. I can’t see how they allowed him to leave the state of Michigan.”

Recalled Hankins: “Michigan State was one of my first choices and we always talked about playing together. But when I took my trip to Ohio State, the family atmosphere and the way Coach (Jim) Tressel treated me made me feel like this was the right place for me to grow as athlete and man.”

He said Meyer has a different style from Tressel, but he has bonded with him and the team is moving forward. “He (Meyer) is an intense coach, but he wants the best for us as people. On the field he expects us to play with energy and discipline.”

Hankins said that although the Buckeyes are on probation and will not be able to play for a Big Ten or national title, Meyer still has his team motivated and striving to be the best they can be.

“We are working to win every game,” Hankins said, “and we just want to have a positive season and send the seniors out with good memories.”

When Meyer arrived this season, Hankins quickly showed him he was the type of athletic defensive tackle that could be the anchor of his defense. He is fast becoming noted around the country for his running back feet, a big smile and a nose for the ball that proves he is more than just a big body.

“I think everyone knew from the start he’d be something special,” senior defensive lineman John Simon told reporters. “Hank can beat people with his speed and his power, and with his knowledge of the game, he knows what’s going on before the ball is even snapped.”

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII

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