While he wasn’t on the field Friday, the patented “No Fly Zone” was in full effect with two new faces in the defensive backfield, the most unproven being sophomore cornerback Darian Hicks.
Hicks anticipated Jacksonville State would attack his side of the field more often as he was one of the most unproven players on Michigan State’s defense heading into the game.
On the first play of the game, Jacksonville State did exactly that. Two Jacksonville State wide receivers crossed routes and created the space for a 32-yard reception on the first play.
Hicks admitted there were some butterflies at the start but knew coming into this season he might be thrown at due to his youth.
“(The coaches) told me that during spring ball since I’ll be the only underclassmen sophomore, they were going to come after me because I’m a younger guy out there,” Hicks said.
”So we watched film on them, prepared film on them. They only caught one pass on me but other than that, interception for me and pass break up too.”
Senior safety Kurtis Drummond said Hicks played great while getting comfortable out on the field.>
“I would say it was mostly about the jitters coming out,” Drummond said. “(Friday) was about him getting confidence. I know it was the same for a lot of us out there, even myself. Getting back into game mode and flying around again.”
Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi thought that Hicks played well despite the limited amount of action he had seen prior to this season.
“I was happy where Darian was, it was his first game really,” Narduzzi said. “I think he played about 13 plays last season, just when we gave Darqueze (Dennard) or Trae Waynes a break. He got to play in a real game so it was good for him.
”For Darian, he needed a real boost of confidence and he got to do it in the game. I think Jacksonville State had some pretty good skilled receivers too. So I don't think we played against some slow guys.”
In the second quarter, Anthony Johnson tried to go deep on Hicks, while Hicks was using press coverage. Hicks stayed with Johnson the whole way and spotted the underthrown ball, jumped up and caught it.
“I was just looking at the ball in the air trying to time when I should jump so I could beat him to the ball in the air and that's what happened,” Hicks said. “I got the interception.”
Hicks was ready for the challenge Jacksonville State presented. He added one solo tackle on top of an interception and pass break up.
“Just going out there, my first start as a sophomore and then having an interception as well, it’s a lot to take in,” he said.
“But they challenged me and I feel like I was set up for the challenge against what they were giving me.”