Hometown: Norfolk, Va
High School: Bayside HS
Perhaps it is apropos that Nicholson is the last player we're profiling. The stars of this year's team figure to be made up largely of the 2011 recruiting class. That includes QB David Watford, WR Darius Jennings, both starting safeties, and many others. But the top player from the class of 2011 is, unquestionably Demetrious ‘Tra' Nicholson. Tra was a starter from the day he set foot on grounds. He's started every game in his college career thus far. He was 2nd team Freshman All-American in 2011 and honorable mention All-ACC last year. This year, he's been on several pre-season All-ACC lists.
Nicholson has 116 tackles in 2 years. That may not sound like a lot, but he has the most career tackles of anybody on the team. He finished 4th on the team each of the past two years. Impressive for a guy who is just 185 pounds and was seen as too small to be a top CB. Nicholson also has 3.5 TFLs, 2 INT, 1 FF and 23 passes broken up in his 2 years. But, probably the most impressive statistic is that he's missed just 44 defensive plays (out of nearly 1700) in his career so far. Most of those were late in games, when he wasn't needed. On a team with a lot of question marks all over the field, Nicholson is easily the most reliable player.
Nicholson came in with a lot of fanfare. A member of the Rivals top 100, the ESPN top 150 and a SuperElite top 50 prospect, Nicholson was recruited by everybody from Auburn and Clemson to Stanford and Michigan. Nicholson was ranked the #3 CB by Scout, #4 CB by ESPN and the #5 CB by Rivals. He could've gone just about anywhere in the country he wanted to go. Thankfully, he stayed home.
Nicholson has one weakness, and it's not something he can control. He's too small. Everything else about his game is wonderful. He's fast (4.43 40), he's quick (4.29 shuttle), he's got outstanding footwork, he's good with his hands, and he's a good open field tackler. Despite his lack of ideal size, he plays big. He's capable in bump and run coverage against bigger WRs, largely due to his ability to use his hands to keep the opponent from getting a clean release off the line.
Thus far in his career, Nicholson has been used largely in zone schemes. Jim Reid didn't put his CBs on an island very often, and with such young DBs, that made sense. Now that the defense is run by Jon Tenuta and the starting secondary is made up of 4 juniors, Nicholson will be asked to do a lot more single coverage. Nicholson is absolutely capable of taking the opponents top WR out of the game. That really gives Tenuta a lot of options for his other 10 defenders.
Last year, Nicholson was tied for 20th in the nation in passes defended per game. Only one player had more PDs than he had without having an interception. Most of the guys on the tops of that list had multiple interceptions. Nicholson was very close to having a couple of picks, and will likely have a couple this year. If he plays well this year, playing in Jon Tenuta's aggressive defense, Nicholson could very well come up with 4 or 5 INTs, or even more.
This team has a lot of talent, especially on the defense. Nicholson fits right up there on the list of most talented players on the team, and makes a wonderful ending point to our offseason player profiles.