COLUMBUS — Everything has been leading up to this moment. It’s a top-three showdown between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan. It’s the first time both programs are bulldozing into the rivalry matchup undefeated since 2006.
Saturday is The Game. It will also be the final home game of safety Ronnie Hickman’s Buckeyes career.
Hickman told reporters Tuesday in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center that he plans on declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft after this season.
“I think everyone’s clock starts ticking at a certain point,” Hickman said. “At some point, it’s gonna be time for everyone to take that next step, and I think that’s now.”
Hickman is in his fourth year with Ohio State. He and Lathan Ransom have made for one of the best safety tandems in the country this season. Hickman is tops on the team with five passes defended. He’s also fourth among all Buckeyes players with 48 total tackles.
Hickman forced a fumble at then-No. 13 Penn State, and he nabbed his lone interception of the season against Toledo. In his career, the South Orange, New Jersey, native has totaled 151 tackles, two forced fumbles and three picks — most notably, a 46-yard pick-six against Akron last year.
Pro Football Focus has rated this season as Hickman’s best in Columbus, and it isn’t particularly close. His 87.7 PFF defensive grade is 19.8 points than it was last year. Where he has made the biggest stride is pass coverage. Hickman’s 89.8 PFF coverage grade is sixth among all FBS safeties.
He’s allowed just 12 receptions on 27 targets. The dozen receptions have resulted in just 79 receiving yards, per PFF — in other words, 6.6 yards per catch.
Hickman has lined up everywhere, too. Here’s his PFF snap alignment breakdown this year: 323 in the box, 151 at free safety, 150 in the slot and 14 on the defensive line.
Hickman has done a lot for the Buckeyes. After this final 2022 push, he’s ready for that next step.
For now, he’s focused on Michigan and enjoying the moment.
“This is gonna be my last game in the Shoe,” Hickman said. “Obviously, I’m going to cherish it.”