Chris Hawkins ready to contribute at USC

Redshirt freshman Chris Hawkins has received plenty of first team reps at cornerback in place of the injured Josh Shaw.

Cornerback Chris Hawkins is burning for the chance to make himself valuable enough to see playing time this fall.

Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports

USC defensive backs coach Keith Heyward is looking for playmakers. His first day on the practice field with his new team he may have found one.

Redshirt freshman cornerback Chris Hawkins picked off a pass and got the attention of Heyward.

"He made a play," Heyward said of Hawkins. "I'm trying to find playmakers."  

This spring has presented a huge opportunity for Hawkins in the form of first team reps at cornerback in place of injured returning starter Josh Shaw.

The redshirt freshman is relishing the moment.

I'm still a pup but I wanted to make it clear...I'm here and I'm here to stay.

-- Chris Hawkins

Last season didn't work out the way he envisioned. There were many who felt he could've contributed at cornerback as a true freshman in a position that was a trouble spot for, what otherwise, was a solid defensive unit.

He didn't want to redshirt, but early in the season he had a feeling that that's where his season was headed. Last August, the team was opening up the 2013 campaign in Hawaii. Cornerback Anthony Brown was injured and forced to come out of the game. For Hawkins, that was the moment of truth.

I made it a point to send a message on the first day that this is not the 17-year-old kid anymore

-- Hawkins on spring practice

"I thought I was the next up guy," Hawkins recalled. "(Former defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast) looked at me and went to Devian Shelton, so at that point I knew I was most likely going to redshirt, and it hurt on the inside but the coaches have your best interest. I just took it to work harder."

For the rest of the season, on gamedays Hawkins was forced to look on and watch, burning for a chance to just contribute and help his teammates.  

Fast forward to this spring and Hawkins is burning for the chance to make himself valuable enough to see playing time this fall.

"I made it a point to send a message on the first day (of spring practice) that this is not the 17-year-old kid anymore," Hawkins said. "This isn't the young one, the little one. I'm still a pup but I wanted to make it clear...I'm here and I'm here to stay."