COLUMBIA — Hardy Rick’s physical style of play looked like itcost him during the second week of Missouri practices. That was when Ricks dislocated his left shoulder during the morning session of a Tiger two-a-day. What he described as the “worst pain he has ever felt” has kept him out of practices for the better part of three weeks. More notably it has resulted in more repetitions at Ricks’ spot for true freshman Carl Gettis and reserves Castine Bridges and Paul Simpson.
Ricks was cleared to play by team doctors on Monday and is expected to start Saturday’s season opener against Illinois. The redshirt sophomore was in the midst of a standout performance in camp when the injury occurred.
Coaches were excited about the prospect of a more technically sound and stronger Ricks, who put on a reported 15 pounds of muscle before the injury . The excitement has not waned yet, either.
“Hardy’s always been a physical player and it’s one of the reasons he played so much last year,” said defensive backs coach Cornell Ford. “But I think he has gotten better at his man coverage skill and hopefully that will carry over into the season.”
After starting eight games in 2006, Ricks came into the spring as one of the starting cornerbacks along with senior Darnell Terrell. Ricks accounted for 40 tackles and three pass break-ups after starter Domonique Johnson went down with a injury.
Ricks’ injury opened the door for Simpson, who showed consistency, as well as Gettis. Though Ricks needed no extra reason to want to be back on the field, the good play he saw from the Simpson and Gettis made him want it that much more.
“I felt pretty happy that we had good backups in case I didn’t get back,” Ricks said. “But the competitor in me wanted to get back, no doubt.”
Gettis’ quick learning and strong play in practice turned some heads, He was listed as the No. 1 cornerback as recently as this weekend. Gettis has been told to expect to play on Saturday and also was aware that if Ricks was cleared to play, that Ricks would start. The true freshman just hopes that he was able to spark some competition among his position mates.
“It’s all about competition and I’m hoping that me getting better inspired all of us to get better,” Gettis said.
Ricks’ return to the line up coincides with Saturday’s game, which takes place in his hometown of St. Louis. Ricks, who was a two-way star at Brentwood High School, is excited at the prospect of playing in front of his home crowd, particularly his two year-old son Isaiah.
As for that inevitable first hit, Ricks is prepared for that as well. He has been told that his shoulder could pop out a couple of times during the game.
And though the possibility of that happening has crossed the normally hard-hitting Ricks, he won’t shy away from putting a big hit on any opposing player in his surroundings.
“I’m a little cautious but after the first one I think I’ll be all right,” Ricks said.