Like it is:

QB in tow, questions remain in trenches

By: Wally Hall
Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2019
SMU quarterback Ben Hicks (8) throws a pass in front of Central Florida linebacker Gabriel Luyanda (24) and defensive lineman Anthony Montalvo (94) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. UCF won 48-20. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
SMU quarterback Ben Hicks (8) throws a pass in front of Central Florida linebacker Gabriel Luyanda (24) and defensive lineman Anthony Montalvo (94) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. UCF won 48-20. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Apparently, Ben Hicks likes a challenge and is unafraid.

Hicks -- a 6-2, 220-pound quarterback -- is transferring from SMU to the University of Arkansas and will be immediately eligible because he has graduated already. He'll have one season to play.

Hicks was recruited to SMU by Chad Morris and was a starter as a redshirt freshman and sophomore for Morris and Joe Craddock, so he knows the playbook.

In fact, his best two seasons at SMU were under Morris. When Morris left, Sonny Dykes came in with a different scheme and Hicks didn't reach the numbers of his first two seasons. He leaves the Mustangs after three active seasons with several school records, including yards passing with 9,081, touchdowns 71 and completions 718.

Dykes actually benched Hicks for part of last season, so it was probably in the best interest for both to part ways -- although Hicks does so with a degree from SMU, an academic school.

For weeks, Morris said the UA was interested in a fifth-year senior quarterback. He wouldn't say who, but it seemed like a foregone conclusion someone was coming when incumbent starting quarterback Ty Storey put his name into the NCAA transfer portal.

Before penciling in Hicks as the starter and start talking about turning the program around, consider that going from the American Athletic Conference to the SEC is like going from Class AAA to Major League Baseball.

Nothing against SMU or the AAC, but Hicks is about to face the biggest, fastest and most athletic defenders he's ever seen. SEC defenses have shut down some of the most potent offenses in the country on a fairly consistent basis.

The upsides for Hicks are knowing the system, throwing the out pattern, seeing the whole field and never staring down a primary receiver. He's got that fighter-pilot mentality, where he can make several decisions in a short amount of time.

The downside is he's never played against the speed he's about to face. Some of the defensive backs in the SEC look like they should be anchoring the 4x100 relay in the Olympics.

More than likely. some of his receivers will be true freshmen who face the same challenge of stepping their game way up.

Here's some advice for the newest Hog: The day he arrives on campus, Hicks should seek out every offensive lineman and befriend him. Then he should meet with the unit as often as possible in the weight room.

He should encourage the offensive linemen to become friends with the defensive linemen, and the offensive players should invite them to the weight room.

Not regularly scheduled workouts, but go the extra mile. For every workout, get there early and stay late.

With at least three quarterbacks on campus this fall and the return of some very good running backs, the biggest challenges facing the Razorbacks are the offensive and defensive lines.

That's the same challenge that was there last season when the Hogs went 2-10.

By the end of the season Storey had to feel like the back end of a shooting gallery. He was racked and sacked far too much, and he was hit on a lot of plays that seemed avoidable if a block had held up.

It is critical to the program for both lines to be stronger and in much better condition. Several times last year, especially in the collapse against Ole Miss, defensive assignments were forgotten because of fatigue.

None of this is news to Morris, and he worked hard to recruit linemen. Adding Hicks could help because one thing the Waco, Texas, native has going for him is experience.

Sports on 01/16/2019

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