It’s becoming easier for Bob Wager to recognize the player wearing No. 21 for TCU. He looks more and more like the player who wore No. 22 for the Arlington Martin coach.
That’s the Kyle Hicks who ran for 22 touchdowns and more than 1,100 yards as a senior before he shredded his knee mere days before the playoffs.
“I’m starting to see glimpses,” Wager said.
Maybe Hicks is, too.
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He has gotten 12 touches in the past two games and scored two touchdowns, his most productive stretch of the season. He’s averaging 6.2 yards per catch and run in that time. He had a 7-yard touchdown catch against West Virginia, taking a swing pass into the end zone with confidence.
On a 13-yard touchdown run at Iowa State, he bounced at the line of scrimmage then cut upfield. (He actually showed that twice — he cut back two times on a 13-yard scoring run two plays earlier that was called back by penalty).
“I’m just grateful that the coaches have enough trust in me to put me in,” he said.
And perhaps that he has trust in his knee.
I saw him do some things on the football field that, I’m not sure I’ve seen that Kyle Hicks. Which is scary, because he’s playing very well.
Arlington Martin coach Bob Wager
Hicks spent 2013 as a redshirt while he recovered from the knee surgery to repair two torn ligaments. The Frogs were happy to take their time with the four-star recruit after flipping him from Texas.
Knees need time, which requires patience, which Wager knew his former star player — sitting behind B.J. Catalon and Aaron Green in 2014 — could handle.
“He was all about trying to be a good teammate and do everything that he could to be the best TCU Horned Frog he could be,” Wager said. “That sums up Kyle. It’s never about him. It’s always about the team. We talked about his role, and even though it wasn’t necessarily an on-the-field role, it was about being a good teammate and making sure they knew what type of person he was, and that even though he was a freshman, to try to lead with his positive behavior and great attitude.”
Green emerged as the Frogs’ lead back late last year, and he remains in that role. He has 125 of the 219 carries by TCU running backs. Trevorris Johnson has carried 36 times, and Hicks 28.
But Hicks is seeing action earlier in games. His touchdowns at Iowa State and against West Virginia both finished the first drive of the second half.
TCU ranks second in the Big 12 in rushing offense with 226.9 yards per game, trailing only Baylor’s 338.3.
“I guess. I mean, everybody wants to play,” Hicks said with a shrug and a smile, asked if it has been hard to stay patient. “But I know that I have a great running back ahead of me, and I’m just soaking it up from him. Aaron, if he can play the whole game, that’s great. I’m that dude to relieve him, let him catch his wind, make some big plays for our team while I’m in.”
Wager recognizes that Kyle Hicks, too.
“At one point, Kyle was a defensive back with us because that’s what the team needed,” Wager said. “There was never a question to the coaching staff. It was simply, ‘What role can I play? If I can block a punt, and it helps our team, great. If need to play corner, that’s great, too.’ And he hasn’t changed at all.”
Green and Hicks are close in height and weight, 5-11 and 205 pounds and 5-10 and 200 pounds. But they provide the Horned Frogs different running styles, which coach Gary Patterson likes.
“Kyle’s giving us that other back. He’s a slasher, a little bit different runner than what Aaron Green is,” Patterson said. “Our next freshman class is going to be very important for us with Aaron leaving. How will Kyle and those guys come in and give us the type of runners that we need — a guy who can make you miss, along with a big back? Because you need to have both. Oklahoma State has both.”
5.1Yards per carry this season for Kyle Hicks. Last season, he averaged 3.5 yards per carry.
Wager would not be surprised if Hicks is ready to be the lead back next year. He would be another year past the injury and perhaps another year closer to the form he had at Martin.
“He was so dynamic when he was with us,” Wager said. “I saw him do some things on the football field that, I’m not sure I’ve seen that Kyle Hicks. Which is scary, because he’s playing very well. He has that innate ability where every cut, every decision, every move he makes is always with him moving forward. Some guys slow down to make those cuts and those jukes. Kyle was one of those guys that could make his cuts and be elusive all while gaining yardage.”
Maybe that Kyle Hicks is here to stay.
“Obviously that’s exciting for me and the Martin Warrior faithful,” Wager said. “But also for the Horned Frogs.”
TCU at Oklahoma State
2:30 p.m. Saturday, KDFW/Ch. 4