Sophomore offensive left tackle Donald Hawkins, wide receiver Lance Ray and quarterback Ryan Mossakowski are just three reasons why the Rangers went 6-3 overall this year and were ranked in the top 5 nationally at one point this season. Hawkins and Ray both earned MACJC First Team All-State honors, while Mossakowski was named to the second team.
Hawkins, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound native of Tunica, has garnered the most attention from college recruiters of the three. He has offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss locally, but also offers from the likes of Georgia, Oklahoma State, Auburn and Texas, the school Hawkins is leaning towards heading up to signing day for junior college players, which is Dec. 15.
NWCC offensive coordinator Jack Wright said left tackles are in huge demand, especially one as flexible as Hawkins, who has gone from being an unranked prospect coming out of high school to rated as the third-best junior college tackle in the nation by one recruiting service.
“Any school wants a tackle that can bend and move as well as Donald can and all the big-time schools are after him because he’s a big guy that’s athletic, smart and can move,” Wright said. “Ole Miss and Mississippi State knew about him before the year started, but nobody (on staff) called Texas or Georgia. They saw what they liked about him on film. He became a national recruit this year more than just a guy that was getting looked at by the schools 200 miles from campus.
“He’s made himself into a guy that all the schools want to sign through his hard work and athleticism.”
Wright said Hawkins was a “great” pass blocker and that he was a left tackle all the way. Hawkins, who helped the Rangers only give up four sacks this year in 648 snaps, is scheduled to graduate from NWCC later this month, which means he can become a member of a team in January and go through spring drills. He also has a redshirt season, another positive for college coaches looking to sign him.
Hawkins said he felt good about his skills prior to the season, but noticed things started to pick up after he did a good job against another top talent in the state, East Mississippi’s Denico Autry, in the third game of the year at NWCC. Hawkins did more than hold his own against Autry, who has offers from Alabama, Tennessee, Ole Miss and MSU, among others.
“I knew I was pretty good, but I would wonder why some of these other schools haven’t offered me. I think the game against East Mississippi, I kind of proved myself that game,” Hawkins said. “(College coaches) saw I was able to make plays against the No. 1 defensive end in the country. I put on film what I can do and after that my recruiting went up.”
Offers started to pour in following that game. Hawkins was committed to play at Oklahoma State, but that verbal pledge changed late in the season for another Big 12 school.
“Texas is my No. 1 school. I like the coaches at Texas. I like the hospitality. I’m going to be the guy to come in (and start) from day one,” said Hawkins, who visited Austin the weekend of Nov. 17-19. “I don’t get that excited about the facilities. I look at who coaches me, what kind of system they have and what can they do for me and what can I do for them.”
Ole Miss is behind a lot of schools for a lot of recruits right now, but newly hired head coach Hugh Freeze has already been in contact with Hawkins.
“Coach Freeze called me (Monday) night. We had a good conversation. We talked and I told him my situation. He said he respected that and he said that he was going to come by here one day this week and sit down and talk with me,” Hawkins said. “He said he was a Northwest guy. I told him I had my mind set on Texas.”
One of the things Hawkins said he would like to do once he figures out who he was going to sign with is polish up his skills in the running game.
“I’m a better pass blocker. I’m more advanced at pass blocking than I am at run blocking. I’m not saying I’m not a good run blocker. I know how to get my man to the ground, but I need to polish up more as a run blocker,” Hawkins said. “You got to be able to run-block guys in the SEC now and that’s what I’m trying to do. Coach (Jim) Jones has helped me out big-time.”
Mississippi State wants Hawkins to come for a visit this weekend, but he didn’t think he was going to accept the offer and make the trip.
Ray headed to C-USA
Wright said that Ray, who also doubled as the Rangers’ top kick returner, was headed to play for Ruffin McNeill at East Carolina. Wright called Ray “explosive” and a player that can change the game one play as good as anybody he has coached.
“If you’re down two or three touchdowns, he’s the kind of guy that can get you right back into the game with one big catch-and-run,” Wright said about Ray, who was at Arkansas prior to coming to NWCC. “He’s a guy that still can get a lot better. There is some refining he can do to his game. He only started working out with us about four weeks before the season and you saw what he was able to do. He can still get better with snapping in and out of his routes, but for a guy that can just run down the sidelines or run the post route over the top of the safeties, there is not another guy who is more explosive.”
Ray led the Rangers with 118.3 all-purpose yards per game average. He caught 37 passes for 704 yards and 12 touchdowns while also averaging 25.8 yards per kick return and two touchdowns. Ray chose the Pirates, a team coordinated by former Texas Tech assistant Lincoln Riley, over Mississippi State and Kentucky.
Mossakowski still looking
Mossakowski, who played his high school ball in Frisco, Texas, completed 177 of his 293 passes for 2,422 yards and 26 touchdowns this past year for the Rangers. Wright called the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Mossakowski the “complete package.”
“He’s got a big arm, he’s smart, he’s deceptively athletic. To be honest with you, he was a lot more athletic than I gave him credit for,” Wright said. “There really are no holes in his game.”
Wright said Mossakowski was just as productive, if not more productive, of a quarterback than Brent Osborn was for the Rangers in 2010.
Osborn signed with North Texas and ended up seeing significant playing time this year.
Despite starting his career at Kentucky and being a top-rated prep quarterback coming out of high school, Mossakowski has been unable to garner the offer he has been hoping for. Wright said Texas A&M and Memphis were both recruiting him hard, but offers fell through when both head coaches were not retained. Wright said Mossakowski also had an offer from Nevada, but they too have cooled on him for an unknown reason.
“I think a little of that has to do with our record. Coaches see six wins and think it might have been his fault, but it wasn’t. He did what he needed to do for us,” Wright said. “He was always good for two or three really big plays a game for us. He did a great job in our offense and he had the ability to grow throw it up for Lance and get a big play for us, bigger than what we’ve been able to get out of the quarterback position in recent years.” (December 7, 2011, Page 6)