This week, we're featuring five Big 12 players on the spot this spring. Maybe they're coming back from injury. Maybe they have much to prove after a disappointing 2013 season. Maybe they're embroiled in a key position battle. Whatever the case, this spring is big for them. Today’s player on the spot: Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks.
After what he has been through these past two years, Hicks should have a simple goal for 2014: 13 games. He just wants to play.
The Texas linebacker won’t get much opportunity for that this spring, but that should only add to the urgency. He’s been standing on the sidelines for far too long.
There have been flashes, a few moments, when we’ve seen just how good Hicks can be. When he’s playing up to his considerable potential, he looks like an All-Big 12 caliber linebacker. Entering his junior year in 2012, former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz considered Hicks one of his de facto seniors, a veteran who brought leadership and big-play potential.
Ever since then, the former five-star recruit has had a rough time. Hicks’ 2012 season ended after three games, with a hip injury at Ole Miss that would lead to a medical redshirt. Texas badly missed his contributions after he went down.
But 2013 was supposed to be the do-over, another junior season to make up for the year missed. And it started well, with a team-high 41 tackles through four games. But it ended with a freak accident, a torn Achilles suffered while running in coverage against Kansas State. Another season ended too soon.
So now Hicks is a senior, entering his fifth year in the program, and much has changed. He’s playing for his third linebackers coach in less than 12 months, for a new head coach and defensive coordinator who plan to design a scheme around their personnel.
Hicks will be a part of the plan, but he’ll take in spring practice from the sidelines and try his best to master what Charlie Strong, Vance Bedford and Brian Jean-Mary ask of him.
During the 19 games he’s missed, Texas coaches have tried all sorts of lineups of linebackers, plugging in new starters until something fit or another injury hit. Because of that, Jean-Mary has lots of options when it comes to experienced linebackers, and a few young ones who could push to see the field.
There will be competition, and Hicks will have to earn his spot back this summer. The next few months will get challenging, and no doubt he’ll do whatever he can to shed the label of “injury-prone” and start making up for lost time.
If he can put it all together in his final year, this Texas defense will be one significant step closer to becoming one of the Big 12’s best. All that potential and promise Hicks has shown is about to turn into pressure.