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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Mini-Bruschi set to make an impact at linebacker

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Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Arizona Wildcats scrimmage at Arizona Stadium Saturday, Aug 20, 2011.

If freshman linebacker Rob Hankins wants to live up to his nickname, he’ll have to turn in a football career headlined by three Super Bowl rings, two NCAA All-American selections and one trip to the NFL Pro Bowl.

“A lot of people call me little (Tedy) Bruschi,” said Hankins, who looks strikingly similar to the former UA and NFL great. “It’s an honor to be nicknamed after him.”

Hankins has heard the comparisons since high school. His Parish Episcopal head coach and former California Golden Bears player, Scott Nady, told The Dallas Morning News back in January that Hankins and Bruschi were similar “in that he’s got a great nose for the ball, and an extremely high motor.”

The comparisons have carried over to Arizona. It may be unfair to compare an 18-year-old kid with no college experience to one of the greatest linebackers in Arizona history, but Hankins is expected to make an impact with the Wildcats sooner rather than later.

Arizona lost starting strong-side linebacker Jake Fischer to an ACL injury during the spring game, opening the door for the Rivals.com three-star recruit who turned down offers to Arkansas, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and several other football powerhouses.

“It’s something I hoped for,” Hankins said of earning playing time early in his career. “It’s really unfortunate that Fischer got hurt and I wish we had him, but I’m happy that I have a chance to help the team.”

Hankins admitted he’s still adjusting to the speed of the game, but the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Dallas, Texas, native has impressed players and coaches alike with his play.

“He’s picking up on stuff really fast,” Fischer said. “He has a knack for finding the ball. He comes downhill hard. He’s got to work on his pass drop a little bit, but he’s improved on that so much since he’s got here, so he’ll be fine.”

Hankins attributed a lot of that success to Fischer, who was expected to be a key cog in Arizona’s defense before suffering the injury. Fischer took Hankins under his wing during the summer, showing him the ins and outs of the Wildcats’ playbook and sharing his two years of experience with the freshman.

“He helped coach me through the summer. He took me in several times a week, went over the playbook and helped teach it to me,” Hankins said of Fischer. “He’s helped more than I could ever ask for. All the linebackers have really helped me and I’m really thankful that I have them.”

Despite his quick progression, Hankins has stiff competition for the third linebacker job as he’ll battle freshman Hank Hobson and junior college transfer David Lopez.

The Wildcats are also expected to run a lot of nickel and dime packages, which would negate the need for a third linebacker.
But if his number is called, No. 44 is more than capable of filling in for Fischer until he returns.

“I want to help the team out as much as I can, get on the field when and where I can and just make a difference and make some plays,” Hankins said. “I want to make everyone in my hometown proud.”

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