Fact or Fiction: David Hicks Jr. could finish as the No. 1 prospect in 2023

Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney and national recruiting analyst Adam Friedman along with Cole Patterson from OrangeBloods.com and Josh McCuistion from SoonerScoop.com tackle three topics and determine whether they believe each statement is FACT or FICTION.

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1. David Hicks Jr. could end up as the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 class after seeing him work out this past weekend.

David Hicks Jr. (Rivals.com)

Gorney’s take: FACTS The elite level of quarterbacks in the 2023 class is a good argument for this question and I could easily see Arch Manning or another one of those five-star quarterbacks finishing No. 1 overall. But defensive line is a premium position as well and David Hicks is so versatile and so dominant across the board that he will be in the conversation for the No. 1 player. Last cycle, a freak athlete in Travis Hunter finished No. 1 but defensive tackle Walter Nolen was No. 2. In 2021, it was quarterback Quinn Ewers and defensive tackle Maason Smith behind him. Both Nolen and Smith were pure defensive tackles. Hicks is more versatile and while the QB class in 2023 is loaded, Hicks’ ability and versatility could move him to No. 1 at some point.

Patterson’s take: FICTION. Hicks always looks the part and is undoubtedly among the top overall prospects in the 2023 class. His ability from him to play all over the defensive line and make an impact in multiple ways stands out. The five-star flashed his talent at UA Dallas, and Hicks is a bona fide five-star and is worthy of his top-five ranking. However, it will be difficult for a non-QB to finish No. 1 overall in the rankings with how loaded the quarterback position is in this year’s cycle. The positional value combined with the high-end talent at QB is a tough obstacle for Hicks to overcome.

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2. After his performance at the Rivals Camp in Miami, four-star DE Derrick LeBlanc should easily be in the Rivals250.

Gorney’s take: FACTS As we rolled out the 2023 rankings there seems to be a little overreaction to Derrick LeBlanc’s ranking and moving him outside the Rivals250. The fact is LeBlanc is an impressive physical presence with a really long reach that will help him off the edge gaining leverage, batting down passes and generally being a nuisance. Is he a finished product? By no means. But that upside could be special and so putting LeBlanc in the Rivals250 – and somewhere deeper inside of it – should happen.

Friedman’s take: FACTS LeBlanc is a fantastic physical prospect that has the athleticism of a smaller defensive end and a great build that should help him be physical coming off the edge. He should be inside the Rivals250, probably inside the top 200 and in the offseason that projection could go higher or lower depending on other events.

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3. Zina Umeozulu’s brother, Neto, signed with Texas in the 2022 class. There’s a real chance the 2024 prospect could head to arch-rival Oklahoma.

Zina Umeozulu

Zina Umeozulu (Rivals.com)

Gorney’s take: FACTS There are definitely brothers that have gone on to play together and it still feels like Zina Umeozulu is in the early stages of his recruitment so he could be genuinely high on Oklahoma, Texas A&M and others and then come around to Texas and playing with Neto down the line. I could see that happening. But I also remember the trio of St. Brown brothers and all of them went to different programs. The brother connection is certainly significant but not impossible to overcome. It feels like Umeozulu is intrigued to play with five-star David Hicks Jr. and if he ends up with the Sooners then that could be a real possibility coming together.

McCuistion’s take: FICTION. Based on some conversations with Umeozulu, by myself and others, on Sunday there was absolutely a feeling that the Sooners are more legitimate contenders than there should be any reason to consider. In fact when you talk about the obvious connections to Texas he actually mentioned Oklahoma and Texas A&M as the two schools standing out to him at this point.

Could that be subterfuge? Sure, and it is impossible to ignore the connection to Texas and how meaningful that is in his recruitment of him. I am not one who ever buys into package deals of even the closest teammates as we’ve just too often seen that not play out but when it comes to brothers I’ll have to see a lot more to change my expectation for Umeozulu.

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