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Summer Questions Series No. 6: Is Dadi Nicolas ready to break out?
Luther Maddy and Nicolas were high school teammates. They committed late in the recruiting cycle with little fanfare. Maddy has started 16 games over the past two seasons. Nicolas seems to be on the cusp, but is this the year for him? Let's tackle that question.
Nicolas redshirted in 2011, as defensive line coach Charley Wiles thought he had much to learn before he was ready to play. The talent was there, it was just incredibly raw. Then, Nicolas didn't help his chances entering 2012 when he was suspended after stealing a bike on campus.
He was reinstated in the middle of the season and played sparingly, albeit impressively down the stretch. He recorded 17 tackles and two sacks in that spare duty. Now, after a stellar spring the expectations around him rising. But is it too early?
The Case: Yes, It's too early
The first thing that might get in his way is the depth chart. Nicolas is highly unlikely to take any of James Gayle's snaps, which leaves him to battle with J.R. Collins - a three-year starter - and Corey Marshall for reps at the other defensive end spot. Wiles will generally only give backups 10-20 snaps during the course of a game, so the chances of Nicolas receiving enough meaningful snaps to really breakout are slim.
In addition, Nicolas has played just 10 games in his career and is far from a finished product. Will he be able to prove consistently that he can play over the very experienced Collins and Marshall? That might be difficult.
The Case: No, it's not toio early
Nicolas is a pass-rushing ace. He's a defensive end who's best suited to be turned loose to pursue the quarterback. Nicolas may not have a starting role, but if he is used as a pass rushing ace, then he may not need one. Obvious pass rushing situations are tailor-made for this guy and will allow him to come in with one thing on his mind - putting the opposing quarterback in the dirt.
He may not be a finished product or the most heady football player, but he doesn't need to be. Find the ball, chase the ball, and Nicolas will be successful.
The Verdict: Somewhere in between
I suppose picking somewhere in between is a bit of a cop out, and may actually be "it's too early" in terms of breaking out. Nicolas is going to play a good amount this year and I fully expect him to be pushing Collins throughout the season. However, is he ready to put together a full breakout season? Probably not. Teams will learn his moves and how to prepare for him and then he will adjust.
The good thing for Nicolas is he won't be counted on to play 60-70 snaps this season, so he will be able to go full-tilt for his set of plays per game. Is he going to breakout against the better teams on the schedule? Doubtful, but against the lesser opponents is where he could thrive.