Listed at 6 feet 3 inches and 224 pounds, he has the combination of raw power and top-end speed that, if coupled with an complete understanding for the game, could produce incredible, consistent results.
“When I first met him, he told me he was 210. That joker was 190, 193, I guarantee you,” defensive line coach Charley Wiles said. “And when he got here, I think he was 200. And now he’s 230. So he’s put on 30 pounds of good weight.
“If we can get him to 250, that would be fantastic. He’s 225, 230 right now and he plays 250 now. If he gets 250, he’s going to play 270. When he puts his hands on you, he’s just a heavy-handed guy.”
Defensive end James Gayle isn’t surprised by the big game Nicolas had and expects more of them. The senior defensive leader saw Nicolas’ potential from the beginning.
“Dadi had a tremendous game,” Gayle said. “I warned the media about him early. I was like, 'He’s going to be one of the better players in the ACC. He showed them.'”
Gayle and Nicolas make up a large part of a defensive unit that leads the nation with 17 sacks, but because of Nicolas’ limited understanding of the game he hasn’t been able to see the field as frequently as he, or his coaches would like. For now he will be used almost exclusively as a pass rusher, like on Saturday when Foster lined him up as an outside linebacker with the sole responsibility of rushing the passer.
“Credit to him because he really has come such a far way from when he started. When he started you couldn’t get him lined up, you couldn’t do anything because he’s only been playing for so long,” said middle linebacker Jack Tyler. “He didn’t understand the positions and stuff like that.
“And now he’s kind of found his niche. You can see that he’s a heck of player and he’s only going to get better once the whole mental side catches up to his physical ability.”