The University of Louisville football program put together one of the school’s best recruiting classes in school history, finishing in the top 25 in the final recruiting rankings.

The Cardinals inked 20 players during the early period in December, including eight who enrolled at UofL in January and were ready to compete in spring practice.

One of the jewels of the class was Robert Hicks, a 6-foot-1, 243-pound linebacker from Miami, Fla.

The Under Armour All-American and one of the highest-rated prospects to sign at Louisville, Hicks has lived up to his recruiting hype by coming in and establishing himself on the Cardinals’ defense.

Concluding his 10th practice of the spring on Wednesday, Hicks has shown he’s physically ready to compete and should be in the mix when the Cardinals open the season versus Alabama in September.

“My biggest challenge has been the transition from high school to college football,” Hicks said after Wednesday’s practice. “Everyone is fast, and everyone is talented. I’m happy to be able to come in this spring and try to compete.”

The Cardinals conducted their first major scrimmage of the fall last Saturday, giving Hicks his first glance at how his ability translates to the highest level of college football.

“I think my skill set translates pretty well,” Hicks said. “Coaches like Ryan Beard and Brian VanGorder have worked hard to make me a better player. It’s been a learning experience, but I think I’m adjusting well.”

Hicks and VanGorder, the Cardinals’ first-year defensive coordinator, both came into the program in January. Hicks is excited to play in such an aggressive style of defense.

“He’s a great guy,” Hicks said of VanGorder. “He puts the players in the right position to make plays, but it’s just up to us to go out there and make plays.”

Every position is open heading into the second scrimmage this weekend, and Hicks is ready to work his way into the lineup.

“I’m just trying to produce,” Hicks said. “I take good coaching and play how I usually play – fast and aggressive.”

Linebackers coach Ryan Beard, who is also in his first year on the staff, has been impressed with his rookie linebacker this spring.

“Getting to school in January has been good for his development,” Beard said. “He came in here with a great attitude and was eager to learn.

“He’s done a great job and has embraced being a college football player. He’s extremely talented. He’s very versatile and takes coaching well. He’s going to have a great career here.”

by Rocco Gasparro