On February 2, 2012, the Florida Gators added two linebackers to their 2013 recruiting class. The first was Jacksonville’s (First Coast) Daniel McMillian and he was immediately followed by Tallahassee’s (Lincoln) James Hearns. Hearns joins 2012 signee Raphael Andrades from Lincoln and the connection doesn’t end there. Former Gator great Jacquez Green is the school’s offensive coordinator. Lincoln has plenty of talent and we hope the path to Florida doesn’t end with Hearns.
Name: James Hearns
Hometown: Tallahassee, FL
High School: Lincoln
Rankings: 247Sports – 4 stars, No. 10 ILB, No. 190 Overall | ESPN – 4 stars, No. 8 ILB | Scout – 3 stars, No. 15 ILB | Rivals – 4 stars, No. 7 ILB, No. 157 Overall
Status: Committed to Florida
Hearns is a power defender, meaning he uses his strength to his advantage in almost every situation. Watch just a few moments of his highlights reels and you’ll see him run through most ball carriers and push many blockers out of his way. His raw power builds as he accelerates and he doesn’t always have to use technique to bring offensive players to the ground. Once Hearns gets a full head of steam, he can go up against much of what the offense has to offer. As he fills out and learns improved ways to condition at the college level, his power and strength will only increase, making him a dangerous individual to be hit by.
As with many players with the same style to their play, that can mean some of Hearns’ tackles aren’t really tackles. Instead of wrapping up a ball carrier, he runs through them, knocking them to the ground. When this works, great; when it doesn’t, athletes like this typically find themselves out of the play. Fortunately, Hearns has a relentless attitude about him to finish the play. On occasions when the ball carrier doesn’t go down from his hit, Hearns continues to drive through them, eventually wrapping up and bringing them down. At the next level, Hearns will have to do this with greater frequency. He has the ability to make tackles with the proper technique, but doesn’t always need to. As that need increases in the college game, Hearns will have to become more of a sound, technical tackler.
Where Hearns will make his money (one day, down the road when playing professionally of course) is in his patience. Hearns doesn’t make a lot of wrong decisions on the field. He regularly surveys the offensive formation and takes that split second after the snap to see where the play is headed. With his natural ability and speed, that second allows Hearns to read the play and make his move toward the ball carrier or, in pass rushing situations, the quarterback. Although some may describe it as a hesitation, it’s that patience that has him in the middle of the play more often than not.
There has been some debate about where Hearns will line up at the college level. Although listed by most as an inside linebacker, he has also been a defensive end and has been mentioned as a candidate at the buck position. While he certainly has the ability to play each of those positions, inside linebacker may utilize his full skill set the best. It’s unclear if Hearns would excel as a middle linebacker in a 4-3, but as one of two inside in a 3-4, he could become a focal point of the defense.
Watch Hearns’ career from the moment he arrives at his first Florida practice. It’ll be interesting to see which path coaches guide him down.
To read additional reports on both Florida Gators’ commits and prospects, visit our 2013 Football Recruiting Reports page.