When Jordan Hicks committed to Texas in January, it gave the Longhorns a pledge from one of the most highly decorated prep linebackers in the history of the UT program.
A high school all-American and the winner of the High School Butkus Award, Hicks drew a lot of attention over the course of his recruitment. But things have calmed down dramatically since signing day for the five-star defender. Hicks recently finished playing for the Lakota West basketball team, and he's now turning his attention towards preparing for his arrival to Austin in June.
"He's really been hitting the training and nutrition. He's putting the weight back on, looking better," said Lakota West head coach Larry Cox. "He's training four or five days a week, basically getting himself prepared.
"He's following the program (Jeff) Mad Dog (Madden) sent him. One of our strength coaches goes through it with him one on one so he's really honed in. That's one thing coach Madden will be really impressed with - he's followed the program to the letter."
The 6-2, 220-pound Hicks chose Texas over a number of other scholarship offers. Before committing, he had trimmed his list down to the Longhorns, Ohio State and Florida, and Cox said it was a combination of factors that helped Texas eventually win out.
"I think number one, it was the consistency in their approach to recruiting. When you look at it, the coaches were all consistent in the message being sent. It was by the same person - coach (Will) Muschamp started his recruiting, he finished his recruiting. I think he felt a comfort in that consistency," Cox said. "With other schools, things changed. Florida with the upheaval of the staff. Even though Ohio State stayed pretty much the same, they had different people recruiting him at different times.
"I just think he got into a really good relationship with coach Muschamp from get go. The other (UT) coaches were there for him when they needed him or when he needed them. Really think it just flowed. Their recruiting plan, how they approached it, it was by the book. He felt a huge comfort zone with that consistency. And quite honestly, he's always liked Texas. He enjoyed going down there for camps and visiting. Once he got into it, he did really like Florida and Ohio State. But when it's all equal, you have to come to where you feel most comfortable. That's where he felt most comfortable."
A physical player with terrific instincts, Hicks has a chance to come in as a true freshman and compete for immediate playing time. Texas has experience at the top of its linebacker depth chart, but Hicks and the other incoming freshmen will have a chance to get into the rotation on a Texas defense that's hoping to maintain its high level of play despite losing some star power from last year's team.
"I think they want him prepared. It's one of those things, he's going in with idea to be prepared, he's going to get a chance. If it doesn't happen, that's not a bad thing. Sometimes kids need more time," Cox said. "But I think that opportunity will be presented to him. It'll be up to what he does from this point on, how quickly he grasps the concepts, the terminology. He's going to work for it. I know that."
Ranked as the country's top linebacker, Hicks is expected to play on the outside, where his speed and athleticism will make him a factor in chasing plays outside the tackles. The Texas coaches have indicated that they like Hicks' ability to play in space and his understanding of angles and open-field tackling, and Hicks is guy that can stay on the field in nickel situations because of his ability to blitz the quarterback and cover ground in pass defense.
A player that works hard on and off the field, Hicks has never been one to crave extra attention. He was extremely quiet throughout the recruiting process, preferring to avoid interviews whenever possible, and Cox said his star prospect would prefer to stay in the background more than see his name splashed across flattering headlines.
"Honestly, he hated the attention. He told me that on signing day. I told him, it's over. Welcome to anonymity again until you start making plays at Texas," Cox said. "With all the attention, he became a little aloof because it wore on him. But he handled it really well, I thought.
"He's really a team player. The reason I say that, when he was a freshman and I offered him a varsity spot, he said he wanted to stay with his teammates. At the time, I didn't understand it. Low and behold, he's a really a good teammate. He likes being around the guys. Doesn't like being the star, but if that's what it takes he'll do it."
In choosing Texas. Hicks surprised a lot of fans that thought there was little chance the blue-chip linebacker would leave the state of Ohio. Since announcing his decision, Hicks has suffered very little backlash from fans in the state and people have supported his decision.
"Obviously there were a lot of people that were disappointed. But I don't think too many people lit into him," Cox said. "I think I heard more of it than anyone. I think everybody's happy for him and going to miss him."