Finding the right fit for your college football program isn't just about what happens on the field, but off it as well. Today, Ohio State added a key piece. How will that commitment impact the Buckeyes?
Ohio State landed a commitment from one of the nation’s premier playmakers when Wayne, New Jersey, DePaul Catholic four-star athlete “Rocket” Ronnie Hickman pledged his services to the Buckeyes while on an unofficial visit for the annual Spring Game Friday evening.
Let's take a closer look at what Hickman – the No. 124 prospect overall in the Class of 2019 – brings to Columbus.
ON THE FIELD
No matter where he lines up on the field, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Hickman is a big, explosive prospect.
He recorded 47 tackles, nine pass breakups, two interceptions and one tackle for a loss while also hauling in in 44 receptions for 809 yards and 10 touchdowns to lead the Spartans to the state championship last fall.
Ohio State is looking at Hickman first and foremost at safety, but he has the frame to add muscle and develop into a linebacker at the next level. He has most often been compared to former Rutgers safety Kiy Hester, who graduated from DePaul Catholic when Hickman was in eighth grade.
Hester — if you are unaware — was a three-year starter for the Scarlet Knights who ranked fifth in the Big Ten last season with 13 pass breakups and three interceptions, earning honorable mention all-conference honors last season.
“They kind of look like each other, too,” Spartans head coach John McKenna told NJ.com. “We talk about it all the time. Kiy was a great player for us, and Hickman is so young and so good. They both have that same body type.”
Despite his nickname — which Hickman has had since early childhood, when he’d take off running like a rocket before falling back down — he is not exceptionally fast. He makes up for it, though, by being quick off the snap of the ball and running crisp routes on offense. On defense, he takes exceptional angles and has an uncanny ability to elevate and attack the ball.
IN THE CLASS
Hickman becomes the fourth member of Ohio State’s Dynasty ‘19 recruiting class, joining Indiana four-star running back Sampson James, West Virginia four-star offensive tackle Doug Nester and Mentor three-star offensive tackle Ryan Jacoby.
Though the Buckeyes lost starter Damon Webb and contributor Erick Smith to graduation, there’s quite a bit of depth at the safety position in Columbus. Six players have been splitting reps this spring between the two positions, including junior Jordan Fuller, redshirt sophomores Jahsen Wint and Wayne Davis and true sophomores Isaiah Pryor, Amir Riep and Brendon White.
Fuller, who enters his second year as a starter, seems likely to leave for the NFL Draft following a strong season. But barring any unforeseen circumstances, the rest of the unit will return for another year. Throw in incoming freshmen Josh Proctor and Marcus Hooker, and the position isn’t one of great need this recruiting cycle.
That said, I anticipate Ohio State will once again take two safeties this cycle.
Other notable targets include Oklahoma five-star Daxton Hill, Maryland four-star Nick Cross, Florida four-star Jordan Battle, Georgia four-star Jaylen McCollough and St. Louis four-star Jalani Williams.
Last year, Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was named 247Sports Recruiter of the Year after he helped the Buckeyes put the finishing touches on the nation’s second-ranked recruiting class.
He inked signatures from all over the country, including Florida, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. The key to each commitment was the relationships he’d been able to build with the prospects, their coaches and their family.
Those bonds are never more evident, though, than when Schiano returns to recruit the Garden State. He was able to establish strong ties throughout the state during his time as the head coach at Rutgers, which played a significant role in Ohio State landing New Jersey four-star defensive ends Tyler Friday and Javontae Jean-Baptiste last cycle.
Schiano was the one who offered Hickman last cycle, and the opportunity to play for a coach of his stature was too great to pass up.