Ben Hicks has been named the starter at Arkansas for week 1, and we probably should’ve seen it coming. Despite the fact that Nick Starkel seemingly has owned most of the first team reps in recent scrimmages, Hicks was already primed to run the offense based on his long history as a Morris acolyte.
The game against Portland State should be a pretty safe affair for a new QB, and we’ll very likely see both quarterbacks taking snaps before the final whistle. Still, it is interesting how closed doors this process has been. The media has had very little access to practices this off-season, leading to all sorts of intrigue developing regarding who would win the job. All reporting seemed to point to Starkel, but it seems Hicks is going to be the guy, at least for a little while.
So, let’s take a look at Hicks’ stats under Chad Morris, and see if we can glean something from the information:
Ben Hicks Stats
It’s hard to judge Hicks based solely on numbers— I’ll leave that job to Adam Ford later this week. In the meantime, let’s discuss the context of these numbers.
Hicks was redshirted in his first year at SMU, so let’s just call that one a wash for him statistically speaking. I’m not interested in the stats this year though— it’s the fact that he had a whole year under Morris to learn and develop under the offense. That offense, mind you, has been reported as difficult to learn, at least by last year’s group of quarterbacks. Regardless, SMU went 2-10 under first-year head coach Chad Morris. Sound familiar? Here’s hoping the Hogs’ fortunes follow the suit of SMU.
In 2016, Hicks took over the job as the Mustang’s QB1. It was a less than stellar year for the Mustangs, but when you consider where they started, you have to applaud the herculean effort Hicks showed. There were bumps along the road with 15 interceptions, including several pick sixes, earning him the unfortunate moniker “Pick Six Hicks.” We’ll come back to that later. The point is, the administration before Morris had essentially quit recruit ing, leaving the cupboard pretty bare for him. After a disastrous 2-10 year, Morris got his guys in with a mostly praised recruiting class that pulled heavily from Texas (in fact, ALL prospects were from Texas). The issue in 2016 was that they were young. But in 2017, they grew up...
In 2017, Hicks had the best year of his career, and led SMU to 7 wins and a bowl berth. I need to stress how bad SMU was before this: They went 1-11 after June Jones left in the middle of the season. That left Morris with a team only capable of going 2-10. Then Hicks arrives, and we’ve gone from 5-7 to 7-5 when Morris has a guy he likes at QB. After bringing in a Texas-heavy class that featured some stud receivers, Morris was able to pull SMU out of what essentially amounted to Death Penalty 2: Electric Boogaloo. One of those studs was current Denver Bronco Courtland Sutton. Hicks and Sutton were able to link up very well, breaking all kinds of school passing records throughout the season. At the end of the season, Morris departed for Arkansas, and the Hicks-led Mustangs were blown out in the Frisco Bowl by Louisiana Tech.
In 2018, Hicks seemingly regressed a bit, along with the rest of the SMU team, as new coach Sonny Dykes led the team to a 5-7 record. Hicks didn’t throw for as many touchdowns as the year before, but he did improve on throwing interceptions, tossing a career low 7 INTs.
So, with all that context, where does that leave Arkansas? I’m not going to waste time making up what could or could not come to pass, but I do think this knowledge can at least show us why Morris picked Hicks. Hicks learned under Morris for three seasons, and knows the offense probably better than anyone outside of Morris himself. Considering the massive amount of young’ns that will be playing this year, perhaps Morris is looking for a more experienced head to guide the youngsters through the year. Assuming the interception numbers stay low, or drop even lower, one assumes that reuniting with his old coach will bring those touchdown numbers back up.
Regardless, it’s at least gonna be one week of Hicks, so let’s hope the Hogs look comfortable and at ease under him.