He didn't have quite the senior season many expected, but his draft stock began to be on the upswing following a strong showing at the Senior Bowl. He showed a fluid backpedal and swivel hips while staying low in his transition, something that isn't easy for most cornerbacks over six-feet tall. Hawthorne has the footwork to quickly adjust and flashed the physical nature needed to play the position at the next level
An Illinois-native, Hawthorne was a four-star CB/WR recruit out of a high school, choosing the Illini over Oklahoma, Missouri and a host of other scholarship offers.
He moved full-time to defense as a true freshman in 2009 (five starts) and recorded 30 tackles and his first interception, which he also returned for a score. Hawthorne battled an injury as a sophomore and made only one start, but returned = as a junior and started 11 games at cornerback, finishing with 60 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, eight pass break-ups and a team-best three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown in the bowl game).
Hawthorne earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in 2012 after leading the team with seven passes defended. He ended with 23 for his career, eighth in UI history.
Hawthorne doesn't have great size, but his speed and ballhawking ability is top-shelf, flashing the awareness and natural feel teams seek in defensive backs. In April, former Illinois' defensive back Tavon Wilson was a surprise second round pick by the New England Patriots. And just like Wilson, Hawthorne isn't a well-known name, but don't be shocked when he's an early round draft pick.
Rangy with the make-up speed to recover and close. Physical in run support and doesn't shy from contact. Aggressive competitor and doesn't back down from a challenge. Versatile and a quick learner. Some experience as a return man on special teams.
WEAKNESSES: Lanky frame with average bulk for the position and needs to get stronger. Transitional technique needs refinement and needs to do more at the line of scrimmage to reroute receivers. Susceptible to fakes and too easily bites in coverage, needing to show better discipline.
Too much contact downfield and needs to show better finesse and timing. Too easily blocked on the outside and lost contain. Only average ballskills and won't always finish the interception. Strong durability concerns with a history of bumps and bruises, including a serious concussion in 2012.