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Thursday, December 19, 2013
Scout's Take: Nicholson to Spartans

By Tom Luginbill


ESPN 300 defensive back Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) surprised some when he chose Michigan State over Pitt.

How will he fit with the Spartans? Let's break it down:

What he brings: An ideal set of measureables and athletic range to play multiple spots, with football instincts to minimize the learning curve as he makes the jump to the next level. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Nicholson has ball skills, size, speed and big-play ability. This is a player who knows what to do with the ball in his hands either on offense or when making plays in the defensive backfield. He has a feel for the game and given his size/speed/strength ratio, he gives coaches a lot of options and a high ceiling for development once he settles in at one spot.

Montae Nicholson
Montae Nicholson is ranked No. 249 in the ESPN 300.
How he fits: Positional versatility. This is a guy who could easily hold up on both sides of the football as either a wide receiver on offense or safety/nickel linebacker on defense. Michigan State is a senior-heavy defense which could pave the way for Nicholson to get into the rotation either at safety or “star” linebacker. Isaiah Lewis is departed now at safety and there is very little depth behind Taiwan Jones at “star” linebacker (nickel). We believe Michigan State has enough depth at receiver for Nicholson to begin on defense for the Spartans. This is just the type of player that Michigan State has built their team with. Good player, slightly under the radar for some programs, but a player with a high ceiling for development.

Reminds us of: Calvin Pryor of Louisville. Initially we project Nicholson on defense because of his range and ability to not only hold up in coverage, but to play down within the box and handle run support with increased strength and bulk. This is how Pryor has developed. When prospects can stay on the field despite offensive personnel changes, because of their range and athleticism, they give the defense an advantage.

How class is shaping up: The Spartans have yet to crack the top 40 of the ESPN class rankings. The commitment of Nicholson adds the second ESPN 300 prospect to the class behind center Brian Allen (Hinsdale, Ill./Central) and a total of 18 prospects. Defensive tackle Enoch Smith (Chicago/Mount Carmel) headlines the defensive class. This has been the process with Michigan State all along: not a lot of flash, just good evaluation of good football players that have developed over the years.