Every day until fall camp begins for Ohio State, we will profile a different Buckeye football player. Today that player is redshirt sophomore safety Ronnie Hickman. Yesterday it was left tackle Thayer Munford. You can find all of the daily Scoop Profiles right here.
No. 14 | Bullet / Safety | 6-1 205 | Redshirt Sophomore | Depaul Catholic High School | Wayne, New Jersey
How’d He Get Here
A product of DePaul Catholic High School in Wayne, New Jersey, Ronnie Hickman was offered by Michigan on December 7, 2016. Four months later he named Rutgers his leader. Ohio State offered him in mid-April and he committed 51 weeks later. When he committed, Hickman was ranked the No. 11 wide receiver in the nation by ESPN. Other services labeled him as an athlete, and they were right. He ended up as the No. 10 safety and No. 115 player in the 2019 class overall. He signed with the Buckeyes over offers from Florida, Notre Dame, Penn State, Florida State, Wisconsin, and others. Throughout his recruitment he stated that Ohio State was his dream school.
Ronnie Hickman was injured his senior season of high school, which meant that he arrived at Ohio State injured as well. He redshirted as a true freshman as he rehabbed. Last year he played in five games, seeing time on defense in three of those games. He did not play in the postseason. This spring he found himself rotating with classmate Craig Young at Bullet. In the glimpses that were seen throughout the spring, it looked like Hickman may have been the nickel Bullet while Young was the standard Bullet. As we have seen with that position with Pete Werner in 2019, if one player shows he can handle everything the position requires, then he will stay on the field.
What to Like
Well, Ronnie Hickman’s nickname is “Rocket,” which is almost never a bad thing. If he stays at the Bullet spot, he brings safety coverage skills to a position that can use them. He’s also got the speed to run down ball carriers and get into the backfield when called upon. This is a guy who has played just three games on defense in his first two years at Ohio State, so there are few players hungrier than he is to see the field this year. Even while he was out, the coaches lauded him for his study habits and understanding of the Buckeyes’ defense. That may be one of the reasons he’s been given the opportunity to be an Ohio State Swiss Army knife.
What’s the Ceiling This Year?
The thing about projecting what a Bullet is going to do at Ohio State is that everybody tried that once back in 2019 with Brendon White and failed miserably. This is going to be Ronnie Hickman’s first real opportunity to see the field and he may be doing it at a position where he’s sharing time, so projecting numbers or impact is impossible. Especially when you consider that redshirt freshman Kourt Williams is also in the picture but wasn’t healthy enough this spring to compete for the job. But if Hickman plays to his ceiling this year, that would give the Buckeyes a very savvy safety who can provide second-level security from a quasi-linebacker position.
Ryan Day’s Ohio State defense has room for a number of different defensive backs, which means just because Ronnie Hickman may be at Bullet in 2021 doesn’t mean he won’t be somewhere else in 2022. The Buckeyes will be looking for a new deep safety in 2022. Could Hickman show up there? Or if Lathan Ransom takes that job, does that leave the cover safety role for Hickman? And what happens if Day decides he’s done with the single-high safety defense and wants to do something else? Ohio State is bringing in as many defensive backs as they can year after year. That means this defense is going to utilize a many-headed secondary for years. Hickman will have an opportunity to show his versatility until possibly he finds one single home and takes ownership of that position.