Coming into the 2019 season no one suspected that Javian Hawkins would have one of the best seasons of any Cardinal. But that is what happened as Hawkins, had a breakout year unlike many in the ACC. Hassan Hall was projected to be the starting running back under Scoot Satterfield’s first season leading the team. If Travis Etienne was not returning to Clemson, Hawkins would be the top returning rusher in the ACC in 2020.
After his breakout season, the University of Louisville has two of the most explosive players in the ACC. Wide Receiver Tutu Atwell received a lot of targets following play-action due to Hawkins running ability. Javian Hawkins ran for 1,525 yards on nearly 6 yards per carry with 9 TDs. His ability is scary given that he has at least two more years of development. Hawkins may already be the best edge runner in the ACC. He is excellent at setting up blocks and has and has an uncanny cut back vision. Hawkins had 100+ rushing yards games against the best teams UofL played, finishing on the second team All-ACC in 2019.
There aren’t many running backs that are similar in size to Hawkins. But thanks to his running style of allusiveness and elite speed, Hawkins’s body does not take the pounding of other running backs. Hawkins possesses a tremendous burst through the hole and picks up big chunks of past the first level. He was graded by Pro Football Focus as the 3rd best running back after the line of scrimmage. Hawkins’s game is similar to Darren Sproles, Warrick Dunn, and Brian Westbrook.
With the game turning into speed over power Hawkins skill set is now what the league is seeking. Hawkins finished seventh in the nation in rushing, breaking the school’s record for rushing yards in a season by a running back. He also totaled the third-most yards by a freshman in ACC history. Against two of the most physical teams in Notre Dame and Clemson, Hawkins showed the ability to play huge against NFL style defenders and stood out as an elite player. Against the Irish, Hawkins ran for 122 yards on 19 carries. Against the Tigers defense, he had 129 total yards and a touchdown. The performance was the first time a running back broke the 100 yard mark against Dabo Swinney in the last 27-game games.
Hawkins has two weaknesses that he needs to improve to take his game to the next level. He must become a better receiver out of the backfield. With his speed and vision, he could become one of the best screen receivers in the country. Also, this will open up another dimension of the UofL offense and allow the play-action to be enhanced. The second part of his game is pass blocking. With a lack of size, he must add muscle to handle the increased workload and pass blocking responsibility. He can chip a pass rusher but he’ll eventually need to plant his feet and take on a block full body. Some of the most beloved fan-favorites have been short in stature. Maybe being short and an underdog in a league of giants is can be a competitive advantage.