“I'm happy just to get it over with,” Hicks told Eleven Warriors of his decision to commit. “Everything I got – the 27 offers I got – is a blessing, but it was overwhelming at times. So to commit to one program, I’m happy. And to know that I’m gonna be going there in two years, it’s amazing.
“I’m happy about it, for one, because it’s Ohio State, the best program in the country, hands down. And two, because it’s a great coaching staff there. It’s just all family. I’m ready to join the brotherhood.”
It's another quality victory for Ohio State on the recruiting trail, so let's take a look at what Hicks' commitment gives the program on and off the field:
On the field
When we first began evaluating Hicks, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior-to-be ranked as the 15th-best athlete and 162nd-best overall player in the country, we believed he had the frame, physicality and skillset to fit the mold of the bullet position. That hybrid spot could be where Hicks winds up playing, but it still remains to be seen.
Linebackers coach Al Washington, Hicks' main recruiter, has already detailed his plans to the sophomore, who has plenty of room to tack on more muscle to his frame. Hicks is another prospect who should be a good fit for the Buckeyes' long-term plans on defense with his versatility.
“Me and Coach Washington were talking about that (Wednesday),” Hicks said. “I’m being recruited to play outside linebacker, but he wants me to be able to rush the edge like I do now. He said he’s gonna help me do that and help me be the best player I can be. He said he wants me to be a linebacker, and he also wants to be that hybrid position like Pete Werner.
“(He compared me to) Malik Harrison. He was smash mouth football. That’s what Coach Washington called it. I watched his highlight tape, and that’s a bad boy.”
It all remains to be seen the exact spot he plays, but one thing that is almost certain is that being a traditional defensive end, with his hand in the dirt, is not in the cards – though Hicks will at times be asked to line up in a two-point stance and rush off the edge.
“(Washington) told me and the coaches he could set me up right there at the defensive end (standing up), but (traditional defensive end) is not really a position I would be going to,” Hicks said. “But even if it is, I don’t care as long as I’m a Buckeye.”
Also a standout running back for Alter, Hicks is an athletic and fast playmaker who isn't afraid to lay down a hit on a receiver coming across the middle. He also has the length and footwork to keep up with them in routes as long as he continues to develop – development he should get at the next level under Washington and other Buckeye assistants.
Off the field
Hicks had long been one of the in-state sophomores that was destined to pick up an Ohio State offer early in his career. In fact, it looked like he was the likeliest candidate to be the first one in his class to get that offer after he had blossomed during a Buckeyes camp in the summer – one in which he and good friend Jaylen Johnson were two of the best performers. Johnson got a Buckeyes offer soon after that, but Hicks did not.
Over the next several months, it was pretty clear that Hicks was yearning for that offer, but it was also clear that he wasn't getting discouraged by it, despite being rated as a five-star player early in the process and eventually being rated the third-best sophomore in the state.
Once that offer came, he and his family knew that it was the right time to pull the trigger, and he will soon follow his cousin, Robert Landers, in becoming the next in his family to wear the scarlet and gray – in addition to good friend Jaylen Johnson.
“For him, the sky’s the limit,” Landers previously told Eleven Warriors about Hicks. “Like I said, he's a phenomenal talent and phenomenal player, and he’s hungry to learn the game. He’s hungry to work hard. … But he’s nowhere near the ceiling that he thinks he’s at. There’s so many aspects that he can grow in. Right now, he has a lot of potential. The boy plays hard, and he’s aggressive.
“But me, personally, I feel like there’s so much more for him to achieve. That’s gonna come with him developing naturally and maturing. He’s only 15. He doesn’t realize the stature and what he has yet so he’s still trying to figure out himself. Once it clicks, oh, that’s gonna be scary. That’s gonna be scary. Oh my God, man.”
In the class
Ryan Day and Co. are running it back here. Once again, the Buckeyes are building a nucleus of the top in-state recruits to get the class off and running.
They did that by landing four of the first five commitments in the 2021 cycle from inside the state (Pennsylvania's Kyle McCord being the outlier to Jack Sawyer, Ben Christman, Jayden Ballard and Reid Carrico) and parlayed that momentum into a national reach, expanding their recruiting footprint and having a nest egg of top players who could become recruiters themselves.
When national prospects made visits to Columbus, those in-state guys like Sawyer and Christman – who attended every single home game in 2019, except for when Sawyer missed the Penn State game while on crutches and recovering from knee surgery – could come in and start crafting in-person friendships with them.
That strategy paid off in the last cycle, and it's continuing to pay off as the Buckeyes look to put finishing touches on what has the inside track to finish as the No. 1 class in the country.
So far, it's become apparent that strategy's at play again in the 2022 cycle, and the Buckeyes have to be happy with the results thus far. They have grabbed two of the state's top three players in Tegra Tshabola (No. 69 overall) and Hicks (No. 162 overall), and if you want to cheat, you can include Jyaire Brown – who was born in Cincinnati, lived there until he was 4 years old and still has loads of family in the state – in that list at No. 122 overall.
“(He compared me to) Malik Harrison. He was smash mouth football. That’s what Coach Washington called it. I watched his highlight tape, and that’s a bad boy.”– Ohio state 2022 commit C.J. Hicks
With how quickly Ohio State has filled up the 2021 class, and with how it's looking like the 2022 class could begin seeing even more movement by the time the end of May hits, the 2022 cycle already looks like it has makings of being a top-three nationally ranked class. Sounds ridiculous to say that in the spring of 2020, but that's where this program's recruiting is right now.
Eleven Warriors will have more on Hicks and his decision in tonight's Hurry-Up.