Ohio State commit C.J. Hicks among trio from Alter set to sign this week

The beginning of the early signing period for high school football recruits will be a busy one at Alter.

A trio of Knights are set to make their college destinations official, a group headlined by C.J. Hicks.

A standout in all three phases for Alter, Hicks is considered one of the top prospects in the country for the class of 2022.

The 6-foot-4, 213-pounder committed to Ohio State in May 2020 and has been active in helping head coach Ryan Day and his staff assemble what was ranked the No. 4 recruiting class in the country as of Monday according to 247Sports Composite rankings.

He’s not the one actually putting together the class, of course, but Hicks said he sought to be another source of information for players considering the Buckeyes.

“I just try to make them feel like they can talk to somebody so they’re not going into anything blind,” Hicks said.

“I don’t push Ohio State. It’s not like every time we talk it’s all about Ohio State. Talk to me about your family, about school — anything like that — and football.”

Hicks carried 66 times for 667 yards and five touchdowns and caught 28 passes for 396 yards with four more touchdowns receiving this season, but he remained a defensive player first for the Knights as a senior.

He lined up almost everywhere in the Alter defense, including safety, nickel and all three linebacker spots, and finished ninth in the GCL Co-Ed with 84 tackles. He even saw time as an edge rusher and returned punts and kicks.

At Ohio State, Hicks is planning to study business and entrepreneurship and could be a versatile weapon in the new defense to be installed by incoming coordinator Jim Knowles, though he said he expects to play Will linebacker for the Buckeyes.

He’ll enroll at Ohio State in January, and he’s already got some business to take care of — getting revenge on former workout partner Rod Moore.

Credit: Tony Ding

Credit: Tony Ding

Moore, a Northmont grad, became a starter at free safety for Michigan late in the season, and he made sure Hicks heard all about the Wolverines’ 42-27 win over the Buckeyes last month.

“I already told him when you get up there you better win your freshman year because once I’m up there you’re not winning, but I’m happy for him especially to see his team in the top four,” Hicks said.

Teammate Derrick Shepard Jr. will also be watching the College Football Playoff with some personal interest. His future team, the Cincinnati Bearcats, are set to play No. 1 Alabama on New Year’s Eve in a national semifinal.

“There’s definitely been a lot of people here (taking interest in UC lately), especially since we’re only team from Ohio in the playoffs,” said Shepard, whose father was a standout at Meadowdale before playing at Georgia Tech and professionally. “You know Ohio State’s typically in there, but now that it’s us, so a lot of people are like, ‘Okay, so maybe Cincinnati is a force to be reckoned with.’”

The Bearcats weren’t high on his list when they became the first Division I school to offer him a scholarship during his sophomore year, but the 6-3, 323-pounder credited former defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman (the Wayne grad who is now head coach at Notre Dame) with selling him on the school over the course of a few months.

“It was basically, ‘You know, we’re a non-Power Five team, but we like to compete,” Sheppard said of the recruiting pitch. “I’m all about competing and I didn’t want to go nowhere and you know, want to be someone’s quote-unquote second option. I wanted to go somewhere I knew I could be the first option.”

He also credited head coach Luke Fickell with being heavily involved in his recruitment — not a surprise since Fickell was a defensive lineman himself.

Since he committed, the Bearcats have accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 so the state’s No. 14 prospect will be able to call himself a Power 5 player at some point in his college career.

“I’ve definitely felt real good watching them (rise) because I feel like I’m going into good hands,” said Shepard, who is also intending to major in business.

“I’m going into a system that likes to compete and kind of gets overlooked, but that doesn’t really matter nothing to them. They’re just a group of guys wanting to play football and wanting to compete at the highest level.”

The third member of Alter’s trio of players signing Wednesday is Christian Kirenga, who like his teammates was an early commit.

He committed to the Redbirds in June after being impressed with what they brought to the table on and off the field.

“They have a really good business school,” the cornerback said. “That’s what I want to major in so I will be able to have a lot of opportunities there in Bloomington. They have the State Farm headquarters, so I’d right out of college have an internship over there and stuff like that.”

The 6-1, 163-pounder had 28 tackles for the Knights last season and sees himself as being able to play anywhere in the secondary for ISU, where he remained committed despite interest from schools including Akron, UC, Marshall, Iowa State, Indiana State, Grand Valley State, Bowling Green and Miami University.

“I like how they want to use me seeing that I’m a versatile player,” he said. “I can play nickel. I can play strong (safety). I can play inside or outside corner, so just anything that they need me to do, and they see that so they want to take advantage of that and get me on the field as soon as they can.”

More than a dozen area players have verbally committed to Division I programs.

Along with the trio from Alter are Wayne offensive lineman Aamil Wagner (Notre Dame), tight end Elijah Brown (Alabama) and defensive end Adam Trick (Miami University), Lakota West offensive lineman Tegra Tshabola (Ohio State), defensive backs Jyaire Brown (Ohio State) and Alex Afari (Kentucky) and defensive lineman Bryan Henderson (Buffalo), Hamilton running back Kaleb Johnson (Iowa), Lakota East athlete Charlie Kenrich (Purdue), Centerville quarterback Chase Harrison (Marshall) and Versailles offensive lineman Taran Too (Ball State).

Springfield defensive back Delian Bradley is set to announce his choice Wednesday.

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