The 50 most important college players in Texas in 2017 — No. 4: SMU’s Ben Hicks

AS THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON EDGES CLOSER, WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE MOST PIVOTAL PLAYERS FOR EACH PROGRAM'S RESPECTIVE SUCCESS.

The importance of a player is not always defined by their skill level. The most important player on a team or in a unit is not always the best player on a team. This list is designed to breakdown the 50 most important players in Texas college football for the 2017 season. It is not a ranking of the 50 best college football players in the state. Importance can be defined by position, need, skill or leadership. We’ll count down the list through the summer, all the way to No. 1.

Previously:
50 – Lamar DE Daniel Crosley / 49 – TCU WR KaVontae Turpin / 48 – UTEP QB Ryan Metz
47 – UMHB RB Markeith Miller / 46 – Sam Houston State DE PJ Hall / 45 – Baylor WR Blake Lynch
44 – Texas Tech WR Jonathan Giles (transferred) / 43 – Texas Tech RB Justin Stockton
42 – PVAMU WR Joshua Simmons / 41 – Rice RB Samuel Stewart / 40 – UNT WR Jalen Guyton
39 – Texas RB Chris Warren / 38 – Rice OL Trey Martin / 37 – Texas A&M Commerce QB Luis Perez
36 – Baylor DL K.J. Smith / 35 – Texas State LB Gabe Loyd / 34 – Texas State WR Thurman Morbley
33 – Houston DB Khalil Williams / 32 – Texas Tech LB Jordyn Brooks / 31 – SFA DL John Franklin
30 – SMU DE Justin Lawler / 29 – Texas State QB Damian Williams / 28 – ACU QB Dallas Sealey
27 – UTSA QB Dalton Sturm / 26 – Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams / 25 – UTSA WR Josh Stewart
24 – TCU LB Travin Howard / 23 – Texas Tech OL Travis Bruffy / 22 – Rice LB Emmanuel Ellerbee
21 – UNT DT Bryce English / 20 – TCU LB Ty Summers / 19 – UTEP LB Alvin Jones
18 – The Baylor QB / 17 – UTSA LB Josiah Tauaefa / 16 – Texas A&M OL Koda Martin
15 – Texas Tech QB Nic Shimonek / 14 – Texas LB Malik Jefferson / 13 – TexasA&M WR Christian Kirk
12 – Houston QB Kyle Allen / 11 – SMU WR Courtland Sutton / 10 – SHSU QB Jeremiah Briscoe
9 – Texas QB Shane Buechele / 8 – UTEP OL Will Hernandez / 7 – Baylor RB Terence Williams
6 – UNT QB Mason Fine / 5 – The Texas A&M QB

The History

When Matt Davis went down with a torn ACL in the season opener against North Texas last season, Ben Hicks was thrown into action a year ahead of schedule. As a redshirt freshman, he called the shots the rest of the season for the Mustangs and finished the year with 2,930 yards through the air and 19 touchdowns, as SMU improved from 2-10 in 2015 to 5-7 while just missing out on a bowl game.

Hicks was the first big QB recruit of the Chad Morris era and enters the fall as the frontrunner in the competition to be the starting quarterback in 2017. While he struggled with turnovers last season, Hicks did have a few notable performances that should give SMU fans hope for the future. His four-touchdown game against Houston helped the Mustangs pull off one of the biggest upsets of the year, and Hicks also played well in a late-season win over East Carolina (235 yards, three touchdowns). Overall, he showed a lot of improvement towards the end of the year after struggling.

After first being committed to Houston during his days at Waco Midway High School, Hicks flipped to SMU when Morris was hired. He was a four-star recruit and was one of the top quarterbacks in Texas after throwing for 3,500 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior.

The Skillset

Hicks grew as a leader as last season went along and seemed to gain a lot more confidence running the offense after getting a few games under his belt. While his overall completion percentage on the year (55.45 percent) leaves room for improvement, Hicks took a step forward in the last three games and completed almost 63 percent of his passes to close out the season. He is a pro-style passer, and struggled to avoid pressure at times. His ability to take care of the ball will be key, as Hicks threw an American Athletic Conference leading 15 interceptions – including six in the red zone – as a freshman.

The Impact

While Hicks is the only returning quarterback from 2016, Morris added two transfers that are legitimate threats to run the offense. Arkansas transfer Rafe Peavy had a strong spring and brings dual-threat ability to the table, as does D.J. Gillins, who was the No. 3 ranked JUCO quarterback in the country out of Pearl River Community College. Hicks holds the edge on the job heading into the season and his familiarity with the offense should help him maintain that lead. But with the Mustangs looking to take the next step in the rebuilding process under Morris, Hicks will need to eliminate some of the freshman mistakes that held him back a year ago. He has the talent around him to produce a potent offense and will need to do so if SMU hopes to break through and hit the bowl game threshold with six or more wins.

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Brady Keane is a Contributing Writer for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Follow him on Twitter: @BradyKeane.

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