Arkansas landed their grad transfer in Ben Hicks, the former SMU quarterback who played two seasons under Chad Morris. Now a year after Morris made the step up to SEC football, Hicks is doing the same. We’ve got three years of data points against AAC competition, consistently the best Group of 5 conference, to see what kind of numbers Hicks put up.
Under Chad Morris
In 2016, SMU just missed out on a bowl bid at 5-7. As a redshirt freshman, Hicks needed some time to grow into the position. He struggled early on, throwing four touchdowns and nine interceptions in a 2-3 start. Things turned in the next two games for Hicks. SMU lost to Tulsa in overtime but he threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns and no picks. Then they upset a ranked Houston team where he had three touchdowns and no interceptions. After that five game start, he finished the year 15 touchdowns and six interceptions and finished the last three games of the year each with a completion percentage over 60%.
2016 Season Stats: 234/422 (55.5%) | 2,930 yards | 19 touchdowns | 15 interceptions | 121.5 rating
In 2017, that was easily his statistically best year, and he had a trio of elite receivers to work with, led by Courtland Sutton. The Mustangs were in plenty of shootouts all season, giving Hicks plenty of chances to get some numbers. He had four games with four touchdown passes, but the team went 2-2 in those. He also didn’t get out and run much. He was sacked 21 times on the year and finished with 47 yards on 54 carries.
2017 Season Stats: 276/472 (58.5%) | 3,569 yards | 33 touchdowns | 12 interceptions | 140.0 rating
A new season with Sonny Dykes meant a lot less passing attempts for Hicks. After 11 games with 30+ pass attempts in 2017, in 2018 he only had six. Again, sacks were a major problem, as he got dropped 28 times on the season. He got sacked five times in his each of his final two games for the Mustangs. The best news is that his interceptions dropped a bunch in 2018, he only had seven interceptions and had only one game with multiple picks.
2018 Season Stats: 208/372 (55.9%) | 2,582 yards | 19 touchdowns | 7 interceptions | 127.3 rating
Against Ranked/P5 Opponents
Hicks had a 2-8 record against ranked or Power 5 opponents in his SMU career, as big underdog in most, he was able to pull two upsets against Houston, one in 2016 and one lat season. In each of those, they were his two biggest games as he threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns in the first upset, and 318 yards and four touchdowns last season. Here are his stats in those games
- 13-40 Loss at Baylor: 17/44, 229 yds, 1 TD, 3 INTs
- 3-33 Loss at TCU: 19/35, 244 yds, 0 TDs, 2 INTs
- 38-16 Win vs Houston: 16/31, 228 yds, 3 TDs, 0 INTs
- 36-56 Loss at TCU: 17/37, 305 yds, 2 TDs, 2 TDs
- 24-31 Loss vs UCF: 27/51, 283 yds, 1 TD, 0 INTs
- 45-66 Loss at Memphis: 15/34, 218 yds, 4 TDs, 0 INTs
- 12-42 Loss vs TCU: 18/38, 111 yds, 0 TDs, 0 INTs
- 20-45 Loss at Michigan: 7/16, 113 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
- 20-48 Loss at UCF: 15/23, 153 yds, 1 TD, 0 INTs
- 45-31 Win vs Houston: 28/43, 318 yds, 4 TDs, 0 INTs
In those 10 games, that’s an average of a 51% completion, 220 yards, and 1.7 touchdowns and 0.8 interceptions per game. For comparison, Ty Storey last season averaged 57% completion, 158 yards, 1.1 touchdowns and 1 interceptions per game. So the numbers aren’t blowing anyone away, but they are better.
The biggest takeaways is that he’s consistently improved his ball security, reducing his interceptions throughout his career. Sacks are also going to be an issue. He’s gotten sacked over 20 times in each of his three seasons. Unless Arkansas’ offensive line takes a massive step forward, it’s probably going to be four straight. He’s also not going to go out and consistently get 300 yards a game. He only did it twice against ranked teams, which he’s going to face a lot of this season, and 11 times throughout his career.