High school football: Alter’s C.J. Hicks focused on state championship, maximizing Ohio State recruiting class

Alter's CJ Hicks is tackled by Trotwood's Dylan Heflin and Michael Smith. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Alter's CJ Hicks is tackled by Trotwood's Dylan Heflin and Michael Smith. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Alter High School standout C.J. Hicks does not have to worry about recruiting as he heads into the summer before his senior year.

And yet the long-time Ohio State verbal commit intends to do so anyway.

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Not that he will be looking around — rather he is focused on making sure the class that signs with him next year is the best it can be.

“I just want to help team out best way I can by bringing in the best competition and the best players,” Hicks said. “The only way you can play good is to go against the best, and at Ohio State you go against the best every day in practice, so that’s why they play so good in every game that they play.”

So far, the efforts of the Ohio State coaching staff and early commits like Hicks to put together a star-studded class appear to be paying off.

He is one of four five-star prospects to have committed to the Buckeyes, and the 12-player group is ranked No. 2 in the country behind Georgia in 247Sports Composite rankings.

Hicks plans to make the trip from Dayton to Columbus frequently this summer, starting with the “Buckeye Bash” recruiting event during the first weekend of June.

Once summer is over, the task at hand will be winning a state championship with Alter.

The Knights lost star tailback Branden McDonald, quarterback Brian Shane and leading tacklers James Keighley Jr. and Aiden Plate, among others, to graduation, but coach Ed Domsitz’s team can be counted to be a contender every year — especially with a player such as Hicks to build around.

“You have to trust the process,” Hicks said of playing for Domsitz. “He’s in Ohio Hall of Fame for coaching so he knows what he’s doing. If he puts you somewhere, just go with it because I came to Alter as a receiver, and you see me I’m playing defense now. I played DB my freshman year. So trust the process and believe in what he’s telling you because he knows what he’s doing.”

Alter's CJ Hicks drives up the middle against Dunbar Friday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Alter's CJ Hicks drives up the middle against Dunbar Friday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Hicks did a little bit of everything for the Knights last fall as they advanced to the state semifinals.

He had 61 tackles, forced three fumbles and returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown and was also the team’s primary punt returner, averaging 16.8 yards per return.

On offense, Hicks could be spotted in the backfield when the Knights got in the wishbone or out wide in spread formations. He caught four passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns and ran 27 times for 228 yards and two more scores.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Alter started the game with a goal-line stand at Trotwood-Madison

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

“We have a great coaching staff,” Hicks said. “Our defensive coordinator (Tom Alig) makes schemes and sets me up on some plays where I’m just there and I’m at the ball.”

He expects to have a larger role on offense this fall with McDonald (171.5 yards per game, 21 touchdowns) having graduated, but defense will remain his primary focus.

“I’m a player who loves to play no matter what position you put me at,” he said. “I love to compete, and I’m going to do the best I can to shine at whatever position you put me. So I’ll play D-tackle if you want me to. I can come off the edge like a D-end. I can play linebacker. I can play safety. I played corner my freshman year so I know what I can do.”

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Defense is the side of the ball he’ll play on at Ohio State, too, with his exact role still to be determined.

Hicks said he arrived at Alter as a receiver but started at cornerback as a freshman.

Last season, he played outside linebacker and safety, often looming on the strong-side edge of the defense looking for ways to wreak havoc.

He is rated as a linebacker but could be an ideal candidate for Ohio State’s Bullet position, a linebacker-safety blend requiring the ability to play in the box and drop into deep coverage, depending on how he grows into his 6-4 frame.

For now, he said the Ohio State coaches have told him to maintain his current weight in the 215-220 range.

“They’re just telling me to maintain where I’m at and just keep doing what I’m doing,” said Hicks, who is a member of the Alter track team. “We just broke the school record for the 4x1 and 4x2 and we’re going for the state record. They just told me to maintain my speed and make sure I’m still fluid in my hips stay flexible.”

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