Over the course of this week, ESPN is releasing their list of the top 100 players in college football while each of their conference blogs are releasing their lists of the top 25 players in the conference.
Earlier this week, Bucky Hodges was ranked 21st in the ESPN ACC Top 25 after having a tremendous 2014 season. Luther Maddy, Ken Ekanem, and Wyatt Teller all just missed out on this top 25 list, but were named as honorable mentions by the ESPN ACC blog.
On the national scale, Dadi Nicolas received enough points to received a grade of tied for 98th. However, that grade seemed very wrong as Nicolas is definitely one of the top 8 or 10 defensive ends in all of college football entering the 2015 season.
However, ESPN’s ACC blog has given Nicolas the respect that he deserves.
ESPN’s ACC blog ranked Dadi Nicolas eighth among ACC players, which easily makes him the highest-rated defensive end in the ACC. This is not a surprise given how Nicolas easily earned his spot on the Preseason All-ACC team while being snubbed from the 2014 All-ACC First Team.
During his first season as a starter for the Hokies, Nicolas shined with an impressive 72 tackles, 18.5 total tackles for loss, 9 sacks, and two blocked kicks. Nicolas continued to be a constant pass rushing even as teams focused more and more on trying to contain the speedy defensive end with one of his best games coming at Duke with 9 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Nicolas has always been an undersized defensive end, but he has proven to be a great edge rusher that can beat opposing offensive tackles very quickly or chase down quarterbacks trying to scramble out of the pocket. Nicolas even has the speed to be used in coverage on some plays to give the opposing quarterback a confusing defensive coverage to read.
However, Nicolas’s numbers show that he is a complete defensive end that is productive as a pass rusher and as a run defender that can contain any running back or cut inside to shut down the running back. Nicolas is a force that just about every defensive coordinator will try to find a way to contain though that is hard, especially with the Hokies’ elite defensive line.
Nicolas also will look to have an even-better 2015 season to improve his 2016 NFL Draft stock from being in the second round range to being able to break into the end of the first round. Nicolas projects to be a 3-4 OLB at the next level, and Nicolas is definitely showing in Bud Foster’s defense that he can do that even if he is still at defensive end.
Dadi Nicolas is a star for the Hokies, and is definitely one of the top 10 players in the ACC.