25 June 2010
Darius Hanks - #15 - 6-0 - 184 lbs. - Norcross, GA - Norcross High School
Really it should come as a bit of a shock that Hanks is a senior. He played in one game as a true freshman in 2007, and it was Bama's opener against Western Carolina. That brief bit of playing time will cost Hanks a full year of eligibility, which is especially painful given the season he had in 2009.
Prior to the 2008 season he was the talk of the summer workouts. Anyone that you talked to that had witnessed a 7 on 7 drill was lauding Hanks for his route running and pass catching. It looked like he might step forward in 2008 and be a great secondary option to incoming phenom Julio Jones.
To be frank, it simply didn't happen. He played in just eight of the Tide's 14 games, and caught a total of eight passes for 88 yards. Inconsistent work in practice appeared to be the culprit. It's tough to catch passes when you aren't on the field, and Nick Saban simply will not play someone who won't work in practice.
So there was some obvious hesitancy last summer when Hanks was once again the talk of summer workouts. After all, we had been burner the year before by Hanks - not to mention the previous three years by great summer workouts by Mike McCoy. It was tough to actually believe that Hanks might finally become the player that his summer work indicated.
Fortunately it was tougher for us, as fans, to swallow than it was for Hanks to come through on that promise and have a very solid 2009. He played in all 14 games, and managed 17 receptions for 272 yards and three touchdowns. While those aren't huge numbers, they were third among Bama wide receivers in receptions and yards (behind Julio and Marquis Maze) and second in touchdowns (to Julio). If you throw in backs and tight ends, he ends up being fifth in catches and yards and tied for second in touchdowns.
It wasn't just the total number that demonstrated his larger role. His third quarter touchdown reception against LSU gave Bama its first lead of that game. His 35 yard reception in the first quarter against Virginia Tech gave Bama its first big play of the season. Seven of his 17 receptions came on third down.
He was a big performer for Bama at big times during the 2009 season. Greg McElroy seemed to have a real trust in Darius, and was willing to throw ball to him in tough spots. He also performed well as a downfield blocker for the Tide, which is a requirement for the receivers on this team.
There is no reason to expect a back slide from Darius during this upcoming season. He clearly established himself as the #3 option among wide receivers, and should have no problem equaling that in 2010.
Catching touchdowns is sometimes more a function of when plays are called, especially in the red zone, so there is no way to know whether or not he'll top his TD total, but receptions and yards should be a little easier to gauge.
With Bama's opponents almost certain to load the box to stop the run, especially early in the season, and team will likely continue to double team Julio Jones. Last season we saw a lot of balls thrown towards Colin Peek in these situations, but the tight end has moved on to the NFL.
In all there were 50 receptions in 2009 made by guys who are no longer on the team. Darius should see a decent number of those passes head his direction, and I expect to see him top 25 catches on the season. All four guys who topped 25 receptions in 2009 also topped 300 yards, so I think you can count on Darius making it past that mark, as well.
Up next is the guy who makes it all work - Greg McElroy.