By Zach Gransinger
#90 Dadi Nicolas 6-4/236 RS Senior
- 2014 Ohio State
- 2014 North Carolina
- 2014 Pittsburgh
- 2013 Alabama
- 2013 Miami
- 2013 Pittsburgh
- Incredible athlete with NFL length
- Fantastic get off
- Great motor
- Natural in coverage showing fluid change of direction
- Gets flat in a hurry to string out play
- Great body control and rarely on ground
- Hesitant off L.O.S
- Reads instead of attacking
- Limited pass rush moves
- Unaware to down and distance
- Undersized for Def End and will need to add size and strength
- Trouble shedding blocks while engaged
- Can get blown off the ball once engaged
- Underwhelming playing
Dadi Nicolas came to Virginia Tech after only one year of high school football. He was a three star recruit out of Atlantic High School in Delray Florida. Nicolas was primarily a basketball player before 2010. Nicolas was redshirted as a freshman and only played 123 defensive snaps as a RS freshman. The following offseason he was awarded the Richard Bullock award as the defenses most improved player. As a RS sophomore he broke Virginia Tech’s record for vertical leap with a 41 in jump. He also reportedly ran a 4.4 forty. His time in the weight room paid off with an increase in playing time and production. He played 313 defensive snaps and saw some time on special teams as well. Nicolas had an impressive stat line for his limited snaps. He had 32tkls, 7tfl, 4 sacks, and 13 QB hurries. His RS junior campaign is the one that really launched him onto the national radar. Nicolas started all thirteen games and was 2nd team All-ACC. He was in on 775 defensive snaps and 70 special teams plays; leading to an excellent stat line. Nicolas tallied 72 tkls, 18.5 tfl, 9 sacks, 35 QB hurries, and a fumble recovery. This spring he earned the President’s award for most outstanding leadership.
Nichols has played all over the defensive line. I witnessed him at the 3 technique, 4 tech, 5 tech and quite a bit at the wide 9 tech as well. Nicolas is severely undersized for defensive end in the NFL and will have to add significant weight, strength and bulk to play with his hand in the dirt at the next level. He has very good length but is a very lean 236 lbs.
Although his frame could easily support more weight Nicolas’ future is probably not at the defensive end spot. Despite Nicolas’ obvious elite athleticism he is far too often hesitant off the ball. I observed too many read or false steps as the ball was being snapped. This allows him to be reached by far less athletic players or engulfed by much bigger offensive lineman. His very limited football background shows in down and distance situations as well. On a 3rd and 1 play vs Pittsburgh in 2014; he hesitates off the line in a clear running situation, allowing himself to be washed down the line of scrimmage. Nicolas has a difficult time shedding blocks once the offensive lineman engages him. His lack of playing strength and inability to anchor was obvious vs Pittsburgh. T.J Clemmings shoved Nicholas all around the field. Clemmings is the type of offensive tackle Nicolas will see every week in the NFL and he did not hold his own in the run game. Nicolas is most effective when slanting and shooting gaps in the Virginia Tech defense. He maintains a good pad level and shoots gaps with the speed and agility of a linebacker. Against Ohio State he slants into the guard and runs through him like Reggie White on his way to a sack. This shows his true potential when his hands, hips explosion, and elite athleticism work as one. He flashes the ability to use his hands to defeat blockers but too often relies on his athleticism to evade blockers. This is a boom or bust technique that often times results in Nicolas taking himself out of the play. He shows great natural bend in his hips and can turn a corner very well. However, the outside speed rush is his move of choice 90 percent of the time so the OTs come to expect it.
When Nicolas does set up an inside move it is very basic, most times just a faint or stutter step and go. Nicolas also has a quick swim that is mostly used when slanting and can be effective. His quickness can be overwhelming to interior OL. One of his greatest strengths is ability to pursue. I’ve seen him chase down wide receivers forty yards down field. He attacks from the backside like he’s shot out of a cannon. Although he can be fooled on a read option; he recovers incredibly, showing off very good change of direction and flat line speed. As he said to me earlier this week he has a “big heart” and it shows when he chases. I have seen him drop into coverage a handful of times in my film study and he looks extremely fluid. Nicolas can turn and run with tight ends and I witnessed him guard running backs out of the back field. This is where I see his future at in the NFL. In my opinion he lacks the size and strength to play as a 4-3 defensive end. I’m not sold on the fact he can hold up at the point of attack as a 3-4 outside linebacker either. Nicolas could fit in as a will linebacker. I believe he has the necessary athleticism, COD skills, and ability to pursue to make a great will LB. No matter where he lands and what position the team envisions him at I believe he is a project player albeit with some polish. He will be a core special teams player on day one though and his athleticism will get him on the field situationally. He will undoubtedly blow up the combine. With all this said I see him currently as a late day two or early day three pick. Nicolas has a whole lot of work to become a complete player. Still the ceiling is sky high with this young man, and I look forward to seeing his improvement in the upcoming season.