KETTERING, Ohio — Thursday night’s season opener didn’t play out the way that Kettering (Ohio) Alter linebacker C.J. Hicks hoped that it would. Hicks and the Knights dropped the rivalry game against Fairmont 16-7 in front of a packed house. But Hicks spent most of the game living up to his five-star billing, with a couple of big runs, one a 70+ yard run that was called back due to an illegal block, and a dozen tackles, as he continues to cement himself as Ohio’s top prospect in the 2022 class.
BuckeyeScoop.com was on hand for yet another evaluation of the future Buckeye and we’re jumping into the Film Room to take a look at his performance.
- If you didn’t know anything about Hicks’ backstory, his early career as a cornerback and transition to full-time linebacker, you’d never view him as a “hybrid” guy or have concerns about his ability to be a true linebacker at the next level. Hicks is already physically developed enough to play the position at the college level. My comp for him has long been former Buckeye star Darron Lee, but Hicks is probably about 20-pounds heavier than Lee was as a senior coming out of New Albany and he’ll have real linebacker experience when he enters the program, something Lee didn’t have.
- Hicks did an admirable job against a brutally tough offense to face as a linebacker in Fairmont’s triple option attack. You have linemen running at you, sometimes two of them. You’re worried about cut blocks, and there’s just a lot of “traffic” going on in there and Hicks navigated it well and was around the football all game long.
- Hicks took the vast majority of his defensive snaps at MIKE linebacker. It will be interesting to see how that varies from week-to-week and how much of that is impacted by the opponent that Alter is facing, but it was great to see him line up in the box, be physical and get off blocks and make plays in the run game.
- He won’t play running back at Ohio State but Hicks had a couple of stiff arms in this game that would make Earl Campbell proud. Alter was limited to just four (FOUR!!!) offensive possessions on Thursday night and Hicks made big plays in the run game on all three of the possessions that he played. Could be a big year for him on offense and could also play a big role in a potential run at Mr. Football.
- The transition just continues to go smoothly here from someone who wanted to be a defensive back as a freshman to now embracing and becoming that every down true linebacker and captain of a defense.
- Picking nits at this point, but one area of continued improvement will be in channeling his aggression and resisting the urge to try to jump everything. Those things have a tendency to work themselves out in college when there isn’t just one star player out there trying to make everything happen, but just staying disciplined with his eyes and reads can improve.
- Great start individually to his senior season and while the loss is disappointing, it doesn’t take any long term goals off the table for Alter as a team or Hicks individually.