Elijah Hicks, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound defensive back from La Mirada (Calif.) High School, provided Notre Dame with some good news Tuesday on the heels of defensive end Donovan Jeter’s de-commitment earlier in the day.
Hicks – from the same high school as current Irish junior tight end Tyler Luatua -- is a unique talent. Recently elevated to a four-star prospect by Scout and the No. 25 cornerback in the country, Hicks has the stride, lower-body power and physicality normally associated with someone possessing longer and larger dimensions.
Hicks is a spring-loaded athlete. His ability to change directions on the slightest move by an opposing receiver indicates quality leg and hip strength. This is an athletic, tightly-wound, competitive football player who thrives on the challenge of being a lock-down corner as well as an explosive punt returner.
Watch Hicks return a punt and you’d think by the length of his stride that the loping athlete is at least 6-foot-0. While he’s not a blazer per se, he’s athletically-strong and quick. His ability to take away an inside route of a receiver and then adjust to an out-cut – on the same play! – makes him the kind of cornerback prospect that top-level college football programs covet.
Hicks, who visited Notre Dame for the Stanford game this past weekend, chose the Irish over Cal, Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington, according to Scout’s Greg Biggins. Hicks also visited Northwestern.
Hicks does not hesitate to press receivers at the line of scrimmage. He’s confident enough in his ability to recover in coverage to challenge a receiver off the snap. He uses his physicality to jam and re-route receivers.
Quick in and out of his backpedal, there is a physical maturity to the way Hicks reacts to movement. He shows recovery speed when a receiver gets a step on him. He has quality ball skills with what look to be large hands, based upon the way he swallows the football as a defensive back as well as a receiver. He even shows the fundamental skill of looking the football into his hands to secure it.
As a tackler, he shows a nice widening of his base and an explosive thrust into the lower body of a ball carrier/pass receiver, which is remindful of some of the plays current Irish freshman Julian Love made this past weekend against Stanford.
As a punt returner, Hicks uses that lower-body control to skip around would-be tacklers and find daylight. He won’t run a 4.4 by defenders, but that long, powerful stride compensates for what he might lack in flat-out speed.
While he’s the third projected defensive back to verbally commit to the Irish in the Class of 2017, he is the lone cornerback prospect among safety prospects Paulson Adebo (Mansfield, Texas) and Isaiah Robertson (Naperville, Ill.).
There is a confidence to Hick’s game that shows in the way he carries himself on the football field, right down to his “most muscular” pose after making a big play.
This is a young man who believes he’s one of the toughest, most productive players on the football field, which is just another characteristic added to his physical attributes that make him a real quality catch for the Irish.