Ohio State finally got to see the coveted “bullet” position in full force in last week’s win against Minnesota. That force was Ronnie Hickman, aka ‘Rocket,’ who led the team in tackles.
Hickman’s 11 tackles were no surprise as the buzz around the sophomore from New Jersey grew throughout camp, culminating with his first career start last Thursday night.
Hickman was able to show off why he fits this position so well, as his versatility allowed him to be all over the field and cause issues for the Golden Gophers. You could see him lined up as either a linebacker or safety depending on the personnel on the field at a given time.
He was graded out as a “champion,” meaning his coaches graded his work and found it much more than satisfactory. Hickman earned that grade with hard work and was one of the 12 defensive players to get the top grade.
Hickman was very pleased with his performance but did not even realize he led the team in tackles until he was singing Carmen Ohio after the game. Making his first start as a Buckeye was a special moment for him.
“I was fortunate enough to start,” he said this week.
Hickman’s lone intention coming into that Minnesota game was to play team-first football, whatever that meant, whatever was needed. He wanted to show that he could do whatever was asked, and after one game, he seemed to be pretty capable of meeting the requirements of the position.
“It’s definitely a big role I had in mind,” he said. “After last season ended I definitely want to come in and contribute as much as I can. That’s probably my main goal and trying to help the team out as much as I can.”
This being Hickman’s first significant action in a game, he got to experience the highs and lows, as well as the in-game adjustments that are constantly going on. As the game went on, the adjustments became second nature for the young bullet and he was able to take it all in stride.
“Once you get those few hits in, those few blocks in you just calm down,” he said. “The game gets a little slower and you get a chance to adjust to it easier and got a little more comfortable.”
Hickman hopes to continue his impressive performance as the Buckeyes take on #12 Oregon this weekend in Ohio Stadium. The Oregon offense has depth, especially at receiver. It should come as no surprise that one week after dealing with Minnesota’s running game, Hickman may now have to shift his focus to a more dynamic passing attack from the Ducks.
“We have to look out for their speed,” he said. “They take a lot of shots down field. We have to be detailed in our assignments.”
The Ducks’ depth is very strong and that is acknowledged by the Buckeyes, but Hickman believes his defense can withstand the test and take down a top-ranked team like Oregon.
The Ducks are not the only thing exciting Hickman — the return of a packed Ohio Stadium is getting him and his teammates fired up as well. They look forward to seeing 100,000 screaming Buckeye fans rocking their scarlet and gray this Saturday.
“Exciting and I’m very anxious,” he said. “I can’t wait for kickoff and that crowd getting behind us on third down.”
Hickman and the Buckeyes kickoff at noon on Saturday on Fox as they take on Oregon.