August 23, 2014

Hicks finally finds his niche at linebacker

EAST LANSING - Mylan Hicks wasn't really interested in talking about himself.

About the fact, that after three seasons primarily on special teams, the 5th-year senior earned the starting linebacker spot in Michigan State's 30-package defense, which utilizes the skills of a defensive back as a linebacker against college football's more pass happy units with spread offenses.

Hicks was more focused on the potential success of a Spartan defensive unit he feels should be better than last season's record-setting unit.

""Last season was magical and it was great, but I think the guys are just ready to keep that ball rolling,'' Hicks said. "I know we've got something to live up to but at the same time we're striving to be better and better. The thing that last year's defense did, we're trying to do better than that.''

Despite Hicks' wishes to deflect the attention away from himself - another potential feelgood scenario on MSU's team - others, including secondary coach Harlon Barnett, were not shy when asked the characteristics that make the 5-foot-11, 197-pound Detroit native a perfect candidate to fulfill the role that departed former defensive back Jairus Jones found success at before a season-ending knee injury cut his season short last year.

"He's had one of the best camps on the team,'' Barnett said. "He's doing a great job at the STAR linebacker position. He flys around, runs to the ball. He's a Jairus guy but still with the DB skills. Unfortunately Jairus got hurt but that would have, and it might sound crazy, made a (bigger) difference for us last year. If Jairus had of been healthy, we could have been even better. That's just how important that position is and has become in our defense and Mylan is that kind of guy. He'll come get you, yes he will. and that's just the kind of mold that he fits into. It's a mindset to want to go and knock somebody's head off and he's coming around. We'll see that soon.''

Hicks, who has earned the chance to be that outside linebacker in the Spartans' defense, will likely come in on 3rd-and-distance situations and against fast-paced, hurry-up, high-tempo offenses like the one featured at Oregon, whom MSU faces on Sept. 6.

And while his concern is not so much on his individual performance, he hopes to be part of a defense that surpasses the success of last season's unit.

"As far as me, this is my last season. I don't have anymore left, so I'm just trying to go out there and go hard everyday,'' said Hicks, who had offers from as many as 10 schools, including six from the Big Ten. "I'm trying to make the best of my opportunities.''

An opportunity that wouldn't have come if he hadn't stayed with MSU's program and decided to look for an opportunity at another school.

Jeremy Langford, another 5th-year senior who found success last year after settling in as MSU's No. 1 running back last season, feels that the former lockdown cornerback, who earned the nickname "Clamps'' because of his ability to play tight, ball-hawking defense on the opponent's best wideout, is destined to excel because of his no-quit attitude that kept him at MSU despite the disappointment of not being able to previously crack a starting spot at his former position.

Langford was quick to point out that Hicks, who has battled back from previous back-injury issues that prevented him from making a strong run at a starting spot in the secondary, is the just the kind of high-quality character guy that every team needs to be a success.

"It says a lot (about him) but that's how life is. You go through different adversities and you have to preserver and that's what Mylan's done a great job of doing,'' Langford said. "It was just about him keeping on, working and grinding, and knowing he was going to get that opportunity. He's done a great job with that this year.

"You're not given anything and like Coach D always says, you've got to earn the jersey.''

For Hicks, that jersey won't be truly be earned until he is part of a defensive unit that makes a name for itself.

"It's been a long process but this camp has been a great with a lot of guys coming together and lot of people in new positions. But the chemistry got better overall and we're just hungry for the first game,'' Hicks said. So I wouldn't necessarily say we're caught up in living up to last year but we are actually trying to be better than what they did last year and with that mindset, you can only be great.''

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