[This is the 13th installment in our annual series where The-Ozone looks back on each member of the previous season’s freshman class and the impact they had as rookies, as well as the impact they could have during the upcoming season. Up next is safety Ronnie Hickman.]
Hickman signed with Ohio State over offers from Michigan, Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Ole Miss, and others.
Why Ohio State?
“I think the tradition this place has,” Hickman said a year ago. “And the numbers don’t lie. They put up big numbers, especially when it comes up to putting guys in the league. You know that’s my dream, that’s everyone else’s dream here. So I think you can’t go wrong with this place. And they’re not just a football program. They’re dominating in the world outside of football, and I think that I can succeed if football doesn’t work, I can succeed off the field just as well.”
Hickman arrived at Ohio State three months after an ACL tear, which put his spring in doubt. As to what fans would eventually see when he was on the field, there was no doubt.
“They’re going to see a versatile athlete that gives his all on every play,” Hickman said. “That’s something I take pride in, and that’s how I’ve been coached, so I think they’re going to see that.”
Even though Hickman wasn’t able to practice, he still impressed his coaches early on in spring football.
“One guy that’s not even practicing right now that’s caught my eye just in the meeting room is Ronnie Hickman, just how he goes about his business,” said assistant secondary coach Matt Barnes.
“I mean for a guy that should still be in high school, you watch him in every meeting, he knows the answer to every question. He’s asking me questions without me even prompting him and things like that. So, just been really impressed by him, but again that’s the culture, that’s really how all of our guys are.”
Barnes didn’t want to get into the injury, but had no problem praising Hickman for the way he was working.
“You know I’ll leave that stuff to our athletic training staff,” he said. “They are first class and they can answer that question for you, but as far as the mental preparation, he’s been off the charts. Physically, been very limited. We’re going to make sure that we take the time we need to take to get him back right, but again we talk about an emphasis on mental reps here and he’s been as good as I’ve seen as far as getting quality mental reps. It’s been really impressive.”
Unfortunately for Hickman, the ACL tear he suffered in October of his senior season kept him on the sideline early on. Whether it was a new injury or the same injury, Hickman was listed on OSU’s availability list as OUT all season long and he ended up redshirting.
At the very least, Barnes wasn’t kidding when he said they were going to take their time to make sure Hickman was fully healthy.
Now What For Ronnie Hickman
Ohio State is looking for two new starting safeties, if you consider the slot corner position a safety. (And presuming a safety can even handle the position.)
The point is that there are jobs open and hardly any career starts returning.
Hickman — who says he’s 6-foot-2 and wants to play at 195 pounds — is likely a free safety in this Ohio State defense, which would put him behind presumed starter Josh Proctor.
Spring ball will be interesting to watch where Hickman is concerned. He has work to do in order to catch Marcus Hooker, who saw action on defense in half of the Buckeyes’ games last year. He will also have to contend with classmate Bryson Shaw, who also redshirted, but got to play in a few games.
Still, as is the cases in all sports, if a player is nicknamed “Rocket,” you have increase your expectations for what they’re capable of doing. Which means maybe he’s also an option in the slot?