Out of Peters' shadow, Hicks set to emerge at tight end

Monday, August 30th 2004, 12:57 pm
By: News On 6

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) _ He's originally from Oklahoma, plays tight end, has facial hair to go along with a mop of sandy, blond hair and could be Jeremy Shockey's body double.

But Arkansas' Jared Hicks would settle for just playing like the New York Giants star.

``They have been calling me the 'Shockey look' after growing out the hair,'' said Hicks, a junior from Bartlesville, Okla. ``It's awesome to know that there is a tight end from Oklahoma that has made it (that) far. That's all I'm trying to do.''

As a junior, Hicks will start for the Razorbacks for the first time and will have some big shoes to fill before he can even begin drawing comparisons to Shockey.

Last year, Jason Peters had a breakout junior season, giving Arkansas a serious threat at tight end for the first time since Joe Dean Davenport starred in the late-1990s. The 6-5, 320-pound Peters caught 21 passes for 218 yards and four touchdowns before bolting for the NFL and clearing the way for Hicks, who was his understudy.

``I learned a lot from him out here in practice _ the way he read things well and the way he saw the open areas,'' said Hicks, who appeared in goal line and two tight-end formations as a backup last year. ``That's done nothing but help me, and he took me under his wing last year. He helped me out with certain scenarios.''

But with Peters gone to the pros, Hicks has assumed a major role on a team that returns one offensive starter.

``We used him a lot. But he wasn't the point-of-attack tight end,'' said offensive line coach Mike Markuson. ``Jason Peters was that guy. This year Jared is the point-of-attack tight end.''

While his 6-6, 271-pound frame is somewhat smaller than Peters' build, Hicks will try to be as strong a blocker as his predecessor was. Last year, Peters and 370-pound right tackle Shawn Andrews would load up on one side to create a massive front for Arkansas' backfield to run behind. Markuson hopes Hicks can form a similar wall with Zac Tubbs.

``Tight end offenses, when you run the football to the tight end side, that guy has got to be able to hold his ground and get some push,'' Markuson said. ``If you don't have that you're going to have some problems. But he has the physical ability to be a very good blocker. He just needs to continue to improve.''

But Hicks could help out his linemates as much by going out to catch a pass as he would be by pursuing blocks on opposing linebackers. In the past, opponents have stacked nine men on the line to stop Arkansas' running game. The Razorbacks have countered by using the tight end as a receiver to expose the defense.

``The versatility of our passing game has helped us out tremendously,'' said Hicks. ``People might have to honor the tight end some more. We do pride ourselves on running the ball, and with the tight end option it does nothing but help our offense out. They can't bring that safety down.''

Hicks, who is one of quarterback Matt Jones' best friends on the team, has lobbied his buddy to pass him the ball.

``I always give him a hard time if I feel like I'm open and he doesn't throw me the ball,'' Hicks said. ``But it's all in good fun.''