Branson Hickman’s visit exceeds expecations

FAYETTEVILLE — SMU grad transfer center Branson Hickman enjoyed his official visit to Arkansas and it opened his eyes about what the Hogs have to offer.

Hickman, 6-3, 294, talked about the visit and how it went for him. It’s his first official visit since opting to transfer for his final college season. Both Sam Pittman and new offensive line coach Eric Mateos made a strong impression on him.

“It has been good,” Hickman said. “I like Coach Mateos’ and Coach Pittman’s plan for me. We talked a lot and I like what they have planned for me. Obviously I had high expectations for the visit and kinda exceeded it. So I’ve enjoyed it a lot.”

Pittman made a good impression on him Saturday while mixing in Hickman’s recruiting with the Prospect Day the Hogs were hosting.

“Sitting down with Coach Pitt,” Hickman said. “Also they had some Junior Day presentation yesterday and I talked to him after. He just mapped out my plan. That’s really what I’m here for. The visits and stuff are cool, but at the end of the day it’s a business decision.”

He has started 33 consecutive games at center for the Mustangs. Hickman talked about playing that position and that’s also what the Hogs are wanting him to play.

“I took over Week 4 of my sophomore year and had it ever since,” Hickman said. “It has been good. I got to learn a lot. Obviously with the position a lot comes with it with the calls and stuff it’s different from every other position on the field. So just being able to do that for three years before coming to another destination makes my life and the coach’s life a lot easier.”

Playing center at the college level has its challenges but Hickman feels the rewards outweigh any challenges and make it all worthwhile.

“That was something I had to get used to when I was younger,” Hickman said. “The snap from being a high school center, high school offensive lineman, to being in college is a big jump. I kind of got thrown into the fire. I’m thankful looking back at it now, but I had to adapt, learn quickly and it has given me a lot of experience. Definitely been growing pains when I was younger, but that is just part of college athletics. I’m really thankful for it. It taught me how to become a man, take ownership of my mistakes and just make sure I’m on point with everything.”

His father, Brandon Hickman, was his head coach in high school at Dallas (Texas) Jesuit Prep. The younger Hickman admits his father has had a big influence on his football career.

“It has definitely helped,” Hickman said. “He has coached me his entire life. He’s definitely been a big reason I’m here. I’m very thankful for him for sure.”

If Hickman chooses Arkansas, he would play his final season in college against SEC competition. Hickman likes that and talked about his discussion on that matter with Pittman.

“Definitely. Coach Pittman talked to me about that yesterday,” Hickman said Sunday. “His message was if you are going to do the portal why not come to the SEC, why not prove yourself and have a chance to get drafted? You play well in the SEC you are going to have chances at the next level. So yes that is definitely attractive.”

Hikcman talked about Arkansas’ facilities and another factor in his recruiting that played an even bigger role.

“It matters,” Hickman said of the facilities. “More the nutrition area than anything because I’m going to be here for six months and plan to go to the NFL. Nutrition is something that is important. I met with the nutritionist and she seems like she has great plans with all the guys. That was pretty crucial.”

While on his official visit, he was hosted by another transfer offensive lineman who arrived at Arkansas in January.

“Junior (Carmona) the tackle from San Jose State,” Hickman said. “He was my host last night. He’s a good dude.”

Since he has only been here for a few months what did he tell you about the Hogs?

“He’s a real humble guy so he doesn’t talk much about himself, but the coaches had nothing but great things to say about him,” Hickman said.

Hickman added a little more about his visit and how his family liked it.

“My family likes it,” Hickman said. “My mom couldn’t make it, but my dad and uncle have both been around college athletics for awhile. They kinda knew what was up with everything. They liked the city and they like the facilities and all of that. My uncle played baseball at Texas. He got drafted by the (Kansas City) Royals. Was in their minor league system for awhile. A baseball background for him.”

Hickman said he will make a decision in middle to late April.

“TCU is one of the others,” Hickman said. “I’m kinda waiting to announce the others until just before the visit out of respect for them and their players. There’s some ACC and other SEC schools.”

Arkansas has identified center as one of its priorities for the next portal date in April. Arkansas signed 13 transfers in December and all are going through spring drills. Hickman watched Arkansas’ practice on Sunday.

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