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Wide receiver Julian Hicks transfers to Akron, says Jim McElwain 'encouraged' him to leave CMU

Central Michigan wide receiver Julian Hicks warms up prior to playing Western Michigan on Oct. 20 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

Julian Hicks is staying in the Mid-American Conference – just not with Central Michigan.

The redshirt sophomore receiver announced his decision to transfer to Akron on May 8, just 19 days after entering the NCAA transfer portal.

Hicks said new Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain "encouraged" him to leave the program, even after he paced the team in 2018 under former coach John Bonamego with 28 receptions for 313 yards and four touchdowns.

Statistically, Hicks was slated to be CMU's top returning wide receiver.

"He could care less," Hicks said of McElwain. "He said I was hurting the team. Just know he has to see me in week 3."

While Hicks' reason for leaving CMU was related to McElwain, he picked Akron to get closer to his family in Cleveland, Ohio. When he was at Mayfield High School, Hicks caught 30 passes, amassed 1,100 all-purpose yards and scored 16 touchdowns as a senior in 2016.

"I want to be closer to my family," Hicks said. "They are the main reason why I even play this game."

He has three years of eligibility remaining but is unsure if he will be immediately eligible. However, it's unlikely Hicks will play in 2019 unless he applies and is successfully granted a hardship waiver like quarterback Tate Martell (Ohio State to Miami) or Justin Fields (Georgia to Ohio State).

It is only incoming freshmen college athletes who can transfer and play immediately without a waiver if their head coach departs before the fall semester.

Hicks leaves the CMU wide receiver room that consists of senior Jamil Sabbagh, senior Brandon Childress, junior JaCorey Sullivan, sophomore Drayton Law, senior Cameron Cole, sophomore Bailey Edwards, redshirt freshman Keonta Nixon and sophomore Kalil Pimpleton.

"I will miss every single player," Hicks said. "They will forever be my brothers."

Even though Hicks is no longer suiting up in Mount Pleasant, his goal remains the same – to win a MAC championship. The Zips and Chippewas play Sept. 14 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

Akron returns receivers Andre Williams, Nate Stewart and Dustin Burkhart, a trio expected to pace the Zips under coach Tom Arth. Williams went for 649 yards and six touchdowns on 46 receptions last season.

Quarterback Kato Nelson, who completed 178-of-342 passes for 2,329 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions, is also returning to the program.

Hicks is the second player to transfer from CMU since McElwain was hired, as defensive end Mike Danna went to Michigan through the transfer portal. Danna is considered a graduate transfer and will be eligible to play for the Wolverines in 2019.

Meanwhile, defensive tackle Dante Cleveland is currently in the transfer portal. He said McElwain pushed him out of the program.