For the first time in school history, Michigan State has to replace a Jim Thorpe Award winner at cornerback.
"There's just more pressure because he was a Jim Thorpe winner," Hicks said. "For me to have to replace him, those are some big shoes I have to fill now. I'm up for the challenge and I'm confident that I can win this."
The rising sophomore from Solon, Ohio, was one of just four true freshmen to play last fall for the Spartans.
He learned the speed of the game is much greater and there is no remorse when you are on the field at a high level. He also took the time to learn from Dennard. Learn from getting on the field and then Darqueze?
"Whenever I needed to ask him a question about the type of coverage we use or how to get the basics down, I knew I could talk to him because he had the most experience," he said. "I went to him and asked him what I needed to do to get better and he helped me learn what I could do and how to get better."
"The approach for me is one guy left, it's a spot open now," he said. "I wanna be the guy that fills that spot. …
"I knew that after the season was over there was going to be a competition between me, Arjen (Colquhoun), Ezra and Jermaine. I just have to show that I'm the guy that the coaches can trust the most."
Early on in the spring, Hicks said the competition has been going well and is strong as the order on the depth chart has shown it can be in flux.
Head coach Mark Dantonio praised Hicks, saying he plays the ball well, tackles well and pays attention to details, but that doesn't secure a spot.
"Right now he's the other starting corner opposite Trae Waynes, but that could flip back and forth a little bit," Dantonio said. "Those other guys are talented, those other corners are talented."
The spring opened with Hicks ahead of Robinson and Edmondson, but after the first day of practices, Hicks' name had a slash next to it and he shared the No. 1 spot with Colquhoun.
"That was a competition that I have to be the first guy with no more slashes between my name and his name," he said. "When we had the first pads on Saturday, I felt like I separated myself then during film coach said there is no more slash, Darian, you're the first guy."
Still, Hicks knows he has plenty of work to do. Last Tuesday, he felt like he had a bad practice and noted he slipped and fell on a deep route and allowed a big gain.
"I have to work on my technique and my footwork," he said. "I just have to have a short memory and that's what separates good corners from great corners."
Fortunately for him, the player he is trying to take over for has been around this spring to give some pointers.
"Darqueze has showed up at a few practices," he said. "He just tells me you're the guy, make sure you own that spot."