Steve: Saints rookie Hicks gets first shot to prove himself
The Saints finally get their first look of this training camp at defensive tackle Akiem Hicks at the Friday practice. Hicks said after Thursday’s workout that he expects to take part in the padded practice.
Hicks has been sidelined due to a fractured hand and was asked if he’s coming back in enough time to be able to play in Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game against the Arizona Cardinals.
“Definitely,” Hicks said as he smiled. “I’m for sure going to play on Sunday, at least that’s what I’ve been told coming in, so I’m going to be ready to play.”
The 6 foot 5, 324-ponder finished his collegiate career at the University of Regina in Canada. Hicks was an LSU signee in Les Miles' 2009 recruiting class before the NCAA ruled he had received improper benefits during an unofficial visit and would never play for the Tigers.
He says that his time on the sidelines healing hasn’t been a complete waste of time though, because he made sure to study all the on the field action.
“I’ve taken more mental reps than I’ve taken my whole life,’’ the Saints 3rd-round draft pick said. “Every play I’m into it, I’m waiting for the next call, I’m ready, I’m doing my own moves on the side and trying to figure out what I need to be ready for when I come back to full contact. So…a lot of mental reps.”
The Saints will most likely go with Sedrick Ellis and Brodrick Bunkley as their starting defensive tackles this year, but Hicks will be given a chance to earn a spot in the rotation. It has been an area where the team has really struggled to find some consistent play from and the Saints used their first pick in this year’s draft on Hicks hoping he will be part of the solution.
"Height, weight, speed, he's the kind of guy we are looking at for our defensive system," assistant coach Joe Vitt said after the team drafted Hicks. "We love his tenacity. We know he is raw. He's got to be coached, but that's the fun part. He fits the character of our football team. He has good work habits. We love his resiliency."
In his senior year at Regina, Akiem Hicks made 42 tackles with 6.5 sacks and was a first-team All-Conference selection.