Kyle Hicks has been a revelation this season, pretty much every time he has touched the ball. He’s making people miss at a profound rate, showing explosiveness when handed the ball, and flashing incredible hands out of the backfield. He even did his best Aaron Green impression against Oklahoma on Saturday.
Unfortunately, he’s not touching the ball as much as he should.
This may sound crazy at first. After all, he’s touched the ball 93 times already this season. That’s far and away the most for any non-QB, skill-position player on the team. It’s a whopping 23% of the total plays TCU’s offense has run this season (401).
As Hicks has established himself as the lead back for TCU he’s done nothing but been impressive. He’s averaging 5.6 yards per carry on the season, and has run for 375 yards and six touchdowns.
Solid numbers, yes, but they could be higher. See, Hicks only has 67 carries on the season, averaging just 13.4 carries per game. He’s topped out at 15 carries in any single game this year. Just a season ago, in a vastly more seasoned offense, Aaron Green carried the ball about 19 times per game.
“But Jamie, Hicks is catching the ball out of the backfield at a ridiculous rate, something Aaron Green never did.”
Very true. On the season, Hicks has 26 receptions for 302 yards, good for first and second on the team, respectively. It’s the most receptions for a running back in college football, and Hicks has been one of the most utilized running backs in any team’s passing game in the country.
That being said, though, Hicks is averaging 18.6 touches per game. Despite the dual-threat nature of his game, that’s fewer touches per game than Aaron Green had in 2015 (20 touches/game).
Yes, Aaron Green was arguably a better running back than Kyle Hicks is at this point in his young career, but Aaron Green was also a part of an offense that had Trevone Boykin, Josh Doctson, and Kolby Listenbee. And he was still touching the ball 20 times a game.
In a young offense, with a lack of a real No. 1 receiver, Kyle Hicks should be getting the ball 25 times per game. Or, to break that down, five more carries and one to two more receptions per game. That’s not exactly a crazy increase in his workload per game.
As a matter of fact, that moderate increase in Hicks’ workload could help stabilize what has been, to this point, a freakishly streaky offense. Consider these points:
TCU has had 15 3-and-outs this season. On those possessions, Kyle Hicks has touched the ball a total of seven times.
That’s right. 15 possessions, seven total touches for Kyle Hicks. That’s a touch every other possession.
TCU rushes by not-Kyle Hicks have gone for 4.7 yards per carry, compared to Hicks’ 5.6 YPC.
And those stats are inflated by Trevorris Johnson’s 11 carries for 8.1 yards/carry. Kenny Hill is averaging 3.8 yards/carry this season (45 rushes) and Michigan transfer Derrick Green is averaging 3.9 yards/carry (22 rushes).
Kenny Hill completes a higher percentage of his passes to Hicks than to anyone else.
Yes, a lot of these passes come close to the line of scrimmage, but the fact that Hill has only had two incomplete passes when he’s targeted Hicks through five games is impressive. Here’s a breakdown by completion percentage to the players with 10+ targets on the season.
The good news is, Hicks has been more involved in the offense over the past two games (touched the ball on 24.3% of TCU’s plays vs. SMU, and 28.4% of TCU’s plays vs. Oklahoma). The bad thing is, TCU has run fewer plays in their most recent three games (72, 78, and 74 respectively) than they did in their first two games (87 and 90).
TCU’s offense relies on being up-tempo, and running a ton of plays. If Hicks can help extend drives (i.e. eliminate three-and-outs), and see more touches overall throughout the game, he’s already proven he can be a game changer.