Strong coaches make Hawkinson optimistic about new season
- Aug. 27, 2012
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When former Kansas coach Turner Gill was relieved of his duties following the regular season finale, players were unsure of what the future had in store for not only the program, but also themselves.
For Tanner Hawkinson, senior offensive tackle and captain, he was eager, but also nervous to find out who would carry on as the new coach of the Jayhawks. When Charlie Weis was named coach in December, Hawkinson and his teammates were optimistic and motivated for the upcoming season.
“I’m pretty sure all of the players were following the coaching search pretty closely for a couple of weeks,” Hawkinson said. “His name never really came up and when it did and he got hired, everybody got really excited because everyone knew what he was about.”
Hawkinson said he is excited to have the rare opportunity to play for Weis, and also be under the guidance of a strong offensive line coach, Tim Grunhard. Playing under a strong coaching staff, Hawkinson said he feels Weis has assembled a team that will help turn the football program around for the 2012 season.
“When he got in and when some of the other coaches got hired, we knew we had the coaches in place,” Hawkinson said. “We knew that they were going to put us in a good position to win.”
Grunhard brings 11 years of professional playing experience with the Kansas City Chiefs where he started 155 games and earned one Pro Bowl honor. Following his playing career, Grunhard was named the head coach of Bishop Miege High School for six years, There he led the Stags to five consecutive district titles and helped them win the 2009 4A state title.
Grunhard is now taking his coaching career to the college level as an offensive line coach, and Hawkinson knows he is improving with Grunhard as his position coach.
“I think I’ve improved in many facets of the game,” Hawkinson said.
He said moving over to the left side has turned him into a better blocker overall.
Grunhard could not have asked for a better group of offensive linemen in his first year with his new gig. Having Hawkinson as the leader of the line makes Grunhard’s job easier, and he is looking forward to seeing him play on Saturdays.
“I think he is another guy that is ready to go and play,” Grunhard said. “We put in the work in the winter. We put in the work in the spring. It’s been a long, hot summer. Now let’s go play football. I think Tanner feels that.”
Hawkinson is taking in Grunard’s advice to better prepare himself before the season opener.
“He’s played the game,” Hawkinson said. “He’s played it at a high level so you know what he is talking about. You don’t question whatever he says.”
Hawkinson is feeling good about all of the hard work that has been put in all off-season because of the new coaching staff. He said the coaches will be ready on game day and it is up to the players on the field to play hard and do what it takes to win.
“You know they’re going to have a good game plan going into games week to week,” he said. “It’s up to us as players to execute those game plans.”