By Otis Kirk
Former SMU quarterback Ben Hicks participated in his first practice at Arkansas on Friday.
Hicks transferred to Arkansas at midterm and has one year of eligibility remaining. The Razorbacks practiced outside despite the cold weather. Following the practice Hicks talked about how it went.
“It was cold out there,” Hicks said. “I miss – I never thought I’d say I miss Texas weather, but nah, it was good to be back out there. Not working out anymore, just practicing and playing football. I like that a lot more than working out.”
You were dancing out there and seemed to bring a lot of energy to the team.
“Yeah, I just love playing football,” Hicks said. “It’s just good to be back out there. This is going to be my last go-around so I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as possible and enjoy the guys. That’s kind of my goal of for the spring is just to enjoy it, have fun and take it one practice at a time.”
Hicks has made a strong impression on the players he will be throwing the ball to. Deon Stewart referred to him as Baker Mayfield Jr.
“I don’t know about all that,” Hicks said. “Again, I just love playing football. I’ve been playing for a long time. I’m just passionate about the game and love playing.”
True freshman Trey Knox made a good impression on observers on Friday. Hicks talked about the group of wide receivers he is working with.
“Yeah, they’re great,” Hicks said. “Got some young guys, got some old guys. Got some veterans that can bring those young guys along. I think they jell well together. They’re all getting along very well. I enjoy working with them. They’re all great, great guys. It’s been fun working with them over the winter conditioning. I think we’ll continue to get timing with the DBs covering them now. When you’re doing routes on air it’s a little different but as far as first day, I thought it went well.”
At SMU, Hicks played in 37 games and threw for 9,081 yards, 71 touchdowns with 34 interceptions. He also rushed for three touchdowns. At Arkansas, he will be facing SEC competition.
“It’s kind of a dream come true,” Hicks said. “I’ve always dreamed about playing in this league. I’m excited about the opportunity, excited about the challenge. Again, just trying to take it one day at a time.”
While Hicks has been at Arkansas only around two months it appears he has taken on a leadership role of the quarterback room.
“Yeah, you kind of get it, just cause I’m old and I’ve played a lot of football,” Hicks said. “I think that’s my job is to come in and be the leader of this team. Just bring guys along and just push this process along. So it’s kind of a part of playing the position.”
This spring, Hicks is competing with Daulton Hyatt, John Stephen Jones, Jack Lindsey and Connor Noland for quarterback reps. However, it appears the Hogs could be bringing in two more this summer. In addition to Sardis (Miss.) North Panola’s KJ Jefferson, who signed in December, the Hogs are hosting Texas A&M grad transfer Nick Starkel this weekend for an official visit. Hicks was asked about Starkel being on Arkansas’ radar.
“Recruiting is their job,” Hicks said. “I haven’t talked to any of them about it. Recruiting is their job. My job is to be the best player I can be every single day and bring this team along. That’s what I’m going to do. That’s my job. Competition is competition. There’s competition everywhere you go. I’m just here to do anything and everything I can to help this team win games and that’s what I’m going to do.”
When Hicks opted to leave SMU he was hoping he might reunite with the staff that he had his most success with. In 2017, Hicks passed for 3,569 yards, 33 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with Chad Morris and Joe Craddock.
“When I put my name in the transfer portal, I thought this could be an opportunity to come back and play for them,” Hicks said. “It was an exciting deal. I wanted to hear other places out and I did that. In the end, I thought this was the best opportunity for myself. So Im excited to be here.
“It’s kind of like the old days. Kind of left it for a year, kind of forgot what it was like. Now I’m back and it’s pretty similar, so it’s been a lot of fun.”
How much has the playbook changed in one year?
“Little bits and pieces,” Hicks said. “They’ve got some different personnel offensively here than we did at SMU. So they added some things as far as just little concepts or tweaks here or there. I think it’s all good. I like the things they’ve implemented since I left.”
Arkansas was 2-10 in 2018, but that didn’t faze Hicks when it came time to make a decision.
“Yeah, I mean, at SMU we started the same way,” Hicks said. “We were 2-10. It was difficult for everybody. We just continued to get better and better. I can promise you most of us are a lot happier when we’re winning.”