Penn State secured its second 4-star defensive tackle commit in a four-day span Thursday, adding Aeneas Hawkins to the 2018 recruiting class. The Cincinnati standout strongly considered staying nearby to compete for the hometown Bearcats but instead enhances an impressive collection of Nittany Lions talent.
Hawkins announced his decision via a video produced by The Players’ Tribune.
— Aeneas Hawkins (@AeneasHawkins) August 10, 2017
Hawkins, a 6-foot-3, 265-pound senior at Archbishop Moeller High School, joins fellow 4-star DT PJ Mustipher as the latest members of Penn State’s class. Mustipher announced his decision Monday, choosing the Nittany Lions over Maryland, Michigan State and Tennessee.
“Coach Chaos [Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer] always talks about building the best defensive line in the country and the best defensive line class ever assembled,” Mustipher told Land of 10 on Wednesday. “I think that’s exactly what he’s going to do.”
Hawkins, considered the No. 23 defensive tackle in 247Sports’ 2018 composite rankings, becomes the third blue-chip prospect in this Nittany Lions defensive line class. Along with Mustipher, listed No. 6 nationally among defensive tackle, Penn State carries a commitment from top-10 strongside defensive end Dorian Hardy.
Spencer is also primed to welcome 3-star lineman Judge Culpepper to campus next year. The son of former Florida Gators star Brad Culpepper, he secured more than 30 scholarship offers before a July 14 pledge to Penn State and provides versatility to fill multiple roles.
Like Culpepper, Hawkins comes from a football family.
His father, Artrell Hawkins, starred at Cincinnati in college. He went on to spend nine seasons in the NFL as a defensive back with the Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots.
Aeneas’ uncle, Andrew Hawkins, caught 209 passes during a six-year NFL career with the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.
Ties to his home city extend beyond just the football background of Hawkins’ father and uncle. His mother, Carrie Hawkins, competed as a member of the Bearcats cross country team.
Considering his status as a Cincinnati legacy recruit, it’s no surprise Bearcats coach Luke Fickell identified Hawkins as an immediate priority. The first-year head coach and former Ohio State assistant has assembled the No. 1 recruiting class among American Athletic Conference programs.
Despite the presence of nearly 40 offers from across college football, this decision came down to Cincinnati and Penn State.
And then there were two… Commitment coming very soon. Stay Tuned! pic.twitter.com/cBXq207Ap9
— Aeneas Hawkins (@AeneasHawkins) July 30, 2017
Hawkins established a strong rapport with the Bearcats and seemed conflicted about this decision during the late stages of the process.
“I developed a relationship with Coach Fickell and those guys really quickly. When you couple that with the local recruits that they’ve taken, with guys like [4-star DE] Malik Vann, that really grabbed my attention,” he told Ryan Snyder of Blue White Illustrated in late July. “So, when you add all that up, plus all the times I’ve been able to visit and the opportunity for me to be the hometown guy that helps put the program back on the map, that’s made Cincinnati a really attractive opportunity.”
However, Penn State sustained persistent pursuit and welcomed him to campus multiple times. His most recent visit occurred July 15, when Hawkins attended annual Lasch Bash festivities alongside several Nittany Lions pledges.
That experience may have tipped the scales in Penn State’s favor.
“I knew [the family feeling] from my past few visits, but this one was special,” he told Greg Pickel of PennLive. “It was like I needed to be reminded why I had fallen in love with PSU in the first place.”
Though spots have become quite limited, Penn State remains in the picture for other top-tier defensive line recruits. A trio of defensive ends ― Jayson Oweh, Micah Parsons and Tyreke Smith ― are priority targets moving forward.
Watch Hawkins’ junior season highlight film here:
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