April 1, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- His detour was brief -- just one season spent rehabbing an injured knee -- but Dan Hicks is back on track on the defensive side of the ball in time for his redshirt senior season.
A former high school tight end, Hicks made the move last spring from defensive end to the position he had excelled at as a prep star in Mississippi. The move was made because of the Seminoles' star-studded depth on the defensive line and the lack of experience at the tight end position entering the 2012 season.
But before Hicks' new career path could ever officially get started, he fell victim to a season-ending torn ACL injury. Instead of possibly making an impact on offense, Hicks had to make his presence felt in the training room with a diligent rehabilitation schedule.
"Anybody that suffers an injury, it's going to be tough," Hicks said. "But it's not about how tough the injury is, it's about how bad are you willing to come back from it. So that was my main focus, just doing the best for my team and just getting back out there."
And getting back out there entailed getting back to the defensive side of the ball.
With Brandon Jenkins, Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner all headed to NFL and Giorgio Newberry and Mario Edwards, Jr. the only returning players with any experience (and that experience is limited at best), Hicks once again saw his position change in the spring because of a need.
"Whenvever they want to put me at, that's up to them," Hicks said. "They're the coaches. I'm just here to be a team player and do whatever's best for this team."
However brief it was, Hicks thinks his limited time at tight end can help make him an even better defensive end this time around.
"You've got to understand, when you play both sides of the ball you learn a lot," Hicks said. "Being on offense and going back to defense, it's just given me the opportunity to make better reads and understand how the offense works and functions and just apply that into the defensive system."
A week and a 1/2 into spring practices and on the verge of the first scrimmage of the off-season Monday, Hicks' knee appears to be 100 percent healthy and his ability as a pass-rusher doesn't seem to have been negatively affected by a full year away from lining up against offensive tackles.
Having spent his entire career at defensive end as a reserve player, Hicks now has the opportunity to not only make a bigger impact on the defensive line but to earn a starting job as well.
New defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri certainly thinks the son of former FSU defensive lineman Dan Footman has what it takes to succeed on the 'Noles' new-look defense.
"I'm glad he did because the kid has skill," Sunseri said about Hicks' position change. "With that skill at that spot and you learn how to use your strength [and] you learn how to use your quickness, this guy has it. He's going to be unique."