Change is Good for Hicks

Coming into the 2010 season it was easy to see that there was going to have to be at least one position change in the Gators' linebacker corps. The two best and most experienced linebackers returning for 2010 were SAM backers A.J. Jones and Brandon Hicks. Hicks started at the end of 2008 and Jones in 2009 when Hicks was injured. After a move to the WILL backer, Hicks is loving it.

Brandon Hicks and A.J. Jones are both speed backers with a mind on hurting someone when they get to the ball carrier. In the last two seasons, both have garnered a lot of praise from the coaching staff at Florida for their play on the field. It was inevitable that one of them was going to make the switch to the other outside linebacker position on the Florida defense. Hicks got the nod for the switch to SAM.

Hicks has a bigger frame and can carry a little more weight. He has great lateral movement and is actually a natural near the middle where the WILL backer plays a lot like the middle backer in this Florida defensive scheme. According to Hicks, it was a good move.

"It's going pretty good," Hicks told the media Monday about his move. "It is a bigger chance for me to get more involved in plays, less dropping in coverage and more stopping the run. With both of us on the field I feel like I can do great things."

As a sophomore Hicks received a lot of the praise from the coaching staff at the end of the year. He was dynamite throughout the season and started the last five games getting injured in the BCS Championship game in the next to last defensive play of the game.

That injury set him back last year, but he still contributed when he can. As a senior, Hicks plans on making this season a memorable one and wants and expects himself to be a big leader for this defense.

"It's a big step," Hicks said in taking the responsibility of a leadership role. "I have played a lot of ball, but there is more to be played. I am just trying to go out there every day and work hard, get better, and try to be the best on this defense. I need to try to lead everyone to a victory and do what I am supposed to do."

He understands that as a senior and by putting the label of "leader" on himself, he will be scrutinized. He is ready to embrace that scrutiny.

"It's a big responsibility because everyone is looking at you," Hicks said. "Everyone is going to evaluate you to see how you played. I want to be that person that everyone looks to or that motivation to try and get it."

Hicks has gotten comfortable with new linebacker coach D.J. Durkin. Durkin was hired from Stanford to coach linebackers at Florida and has a lot of duties on special teams as well. Durkin is a little more outspoken and lively than former linebacker coach and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, but Hicks welcomes the change.

"Coach DJ is pretty good," Hicks said of his new coach. "He loves fundamental work and for us to get technique down. I know that is what we need. We have the speed and talent but if we have the technique it will be the best of both worlds.

"He is more up beat and a loud and outspoken coach. It's different, but we are adapting real well to it. I enjoy him and I know the others enjoy him as well."

There is no doubting Brandon Hicks talent as a college linebacker. He has proven himself time and time again when given the chance. He brings more speed and overall athletic ability to the WILL backer position than his predecessor Ryan Stamper. Now the senior from Jacksonville will get a chance to be a leader on what is expected to be a pretty good defense, much like Stamper.

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