Mylan Hicks on being 5-foot-9: “I'll take the littlest cat with the biggest heart, and he can play any day.” (Allen Trieu/Scout.com)
Detroit has often been home to some of the hidden gems in college football recruiting. The secrets are fewer now, though, because more programs put in their due diligence in Michigan. In addition, organizations such as Think Detroit PAL have worked hard to increase the visibility and college-readiness of the city's prospects.
TDP arranged a junior day last Saturday aimed at forwarding those initiatives, and hosted a youngster that might have flown under the radar in past years -- Detroit Renaissance cornerback Mylan Hicks.
Hicks is the latest standout prospect in the Phoenix's talent-rich program. His former teammates, Dana Dixon and Chris Norman, are headed to Michigan State in the fall, and two-sport star Delano Collins is still pondering offers in basketball and football. Now, Hicks' turn has come around and he appears to be on a similar path to becoming highly coveted.
A role player until last year, this cat-quick youngster was thrust into a prime-time role starting both ways as a junior. It was a huge jump in responsibility, but one that Hicks always believed he'd be ready for.
"I never had much problem with pressure," he said confidently. "I've always been good under pressure. I'd been starting basically all my life until I got to high school. I had to sit back my first couple of years, but I got back at it."
By season's end, Hicks had truly made his mark. He had racked up more than 800 yards and nine touchdowns from his tailback position, and made an even greater impact defensively with 15 pass breakups and one interception.
"From the first game on I felt like he set the tone by blanketing one side of the field," said Renaissance assistant Antoine Edwards. "With him, Dana (Dixon) and Delano (Collins), we had a really good secondary. I believe we only gave up two passing touchdowns all season. We put him on the other team's best receiver and he took that challenge pretty well. I think he did a really good job. "
That Hicks was so successful came as a surprise to casual observers and opponents alike. He took the field as a 5-foot-9, 167-pound 15-year old. That physical immaturity was initially targeted by opposing coaches as an attack point. Accustomed to such doubts by opponents, Hicks chose to address them by doing what he'd always done -- by focusing on what he did have instead of what he didn't.
"I've always had that problem since I've been playing," Hicks said of his size. "I look at it as, I'll take the littlest cat with the biggest heart, and he can play any day."
That approach not only endeared Hicks to teammates and coaches, it also made him a presence on the football field that belied his size.
"The first thing I think you'll notice about Mylan is his confidence," said Edwards. "He feels like he can match up and cover up the other team's best receiver all day long. He hates when we play zone. He wants to play man up.
"I think you'll also notice is his fluidity. He has unbelievable hips and backpedal, and he is working hard on refining his skills this offseason. I think he's only scratched the surface of his ability because he is very naturally athletic. I think you're going to see a much improved Mylan come his senior season."
One of the primary ingredients in that projected improvement is his growth physically. Hicks is literally a different player today than he was during the season. Two additional inches of height and 10 more pounds of muscle have reshaped him as a player and as a prospect. Now he simply has to put his newfound size to good use.
"The biggest thing that he needs to improve on to become a completely dominant corner is just to be more physical," Edwards explained. "He's not shy by any means. He will stick his nose in there, but he needs to be able to come up there and start knocking people out. Right now, I would consider him more of a straight-up cover corner that's developing. He does a good job in run support. He just needs to continue to develop."
Offers getting close?
Numerous schools will be monitoring that development closely. Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Toledo have already extended scholarship offers, while Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt are showing strong interest. The Wolverines and Spartans have both hosted Hicks on unofficial visits in recent weeks and appear to be turning up the heat in his recruitment.
"I went to Michigan State's first junior day and got to meet the coaching staff," Hicks reported. "Real cool guys. We actually met in the new (Skandalaris Football Center) that they just constructed. It is a very nice center. I really like the atmosphere at Michigan State. Of course, I've got two past teammates that are going to be up there, so I like that a lot.
"(Michigan's home game against Purdue) was my first time meeting Coach Rod. He's a nice person. I got to know him and got to know the coaching staff. I met the defensive coordinator (Greg Robinson). Real cool guys."
Edwards, who has gone on the recruiting trips with Hicks, believes both programs are becoming more enamored with his prized pupil by the day.
"I wouldn't be surprised if both schools offered relatively soon," the Renaissance assistant said. "Both schools have him very high on their board. There are (coaches) on both sides who want to offer him right now, but there are also other coaches who want to get a better look at him in camp."
Hicks is determined to prove his worth and will begin doing so at the Scout.com/BadgerSports Skills Pass Camp at Ohio State later this month. There he will match up with big-time wideouts and measure himself against other top corners like Cass Tech's Dior Mathis.
"I'm not going to lie to you and say Mylan doesn't want to be considered the No. 1 corner in the state of Michigan, because he does," Edwards admitted. "He has the upmost respect for Dior Mathis' game and he understands that Dior Mathis is an outstanding player. Mylan just wants to show people he's an outstanding player in his own right and that at the very least they're 1a and 1b.
"They have a little friendly competition going on. There's competition between Cass and Renaissance in general, but it is all fun."
If things go according to plan and Hicks does earn offers from the in-state programs, a fierce battle could ensue. At this point he isn't tipping his hand.
"(Having teammates at Michigan State) would make me feel at home, but I'm not really favored toward any school right now," he said. "I really don't have a timeline (to make a decision). I'm very patient with the process.
"Basically, (the decision will come down to) my relationship with the coaching staff."
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine magazine and GoBlueWolverine.com, and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA. His column appears every Thursday.
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