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Once he heard a little bit about Utah's cornerbacks who made the NFL, it wasn't hard for Ohaji Hawkins to connect the dots.

Sean Smith is 6-foot-3. Keith McGill is 6-foot-3. Eric Rowe is 6-foot-1.

A senior at Winter Haven High in Central Florida, Hawkins knows nothing is promised. But he thinks with his 6-foot-2 height, Utah could help mold him into one of Utah's next great big defensive backs.

"They've had success with cornerbacks at my height, tall cornerbacks," he said. "It's a great opportunity, and a great environment. It looks like a great place to be."

The Utes surely hope that Hawkins, a 2016 recruit, has the potential to be a great player, as well. A two-star recruit, he's played for Winter Haven's varsity squad since he was a freshman. He was recently named one of the top 5 college prospects in his county by The Ledger in Lakeland, Fla., playing as both a corner and a free safety.

Hawkins also plays basketball for the Blue Devils, and he says he'll run track this year.

Hawkins said his biggest draw into Utah was his relationship with cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah, with whom he's developed a close relationship over the past few months. Hawkins called Shah on Sunday morning to commit to the Utes, electing to head west over offers from Army, Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, Tennessee State and Western Kentucky.

"He's a really good person," Hawkins said of Shah. "Coach [Dennis] Erickson helped too, but I really like Coach Shah. I'm excited to play for him."

It's already a big recruiting year in the Sunshine State for Utah, which currently has four Florida recruits committed to the 2016 class. Hawkins said the Utes are becoming a talked-about program in Florida, particularly among those recruits who might be overlooked by bigger schools in the South.

Hawkins said his father was among the first to research Utah and advise him that it might be a good destination.

"It's one of the big power teams in the nation, but also you can get a great education there," he said. "It's a good program. A lot of kids here are talking about it."

Hawkins said he's unsure what his major will be when he arrives next summer. He's hoping to take an official visit this fall to see Salt Lake City for the first time.

Hawkins is the 17th recruit in the 2016 class that the Tribune has reported on. Links to the other known recruits are below.



Twitter: @kylegoon