The Virginia Tech Hokies boasted one of the nation’s best pass rushes in 2013, recording 39 sacks as a team to rank No. 8 in the nation. But after losing four of their top five pass-rushers to graduation this offseason, the Hokies will need to find new leaders to step up on the defensive line. Will Dadi Nicolas answer the call?
As a sophomore, the 6-foot-3, 224-pound Nicolas was used as a pass-rush specialist and finished sixth on the team with four sacks. He figures to be a much more prominent member of the defensive rotation at defensive end, however, now that both James Gayle and J.R. Collins have graduated. In all, Virginia Tech loses 25 sacks from the 2013 squad as seniors graduate and it will be up to players like Nicolas to pick up the slack.
Even in a limited role last season, Nicolas showed the ability to create havoc off the edge with his athleticism. While there are some concerns about how well he’ll hold up against the run as an undersized edge rusher, Virginia Tech will find ways to get him after the quarterback in 2014. So much of the Hokies’ defensive success relies on generating a pass rush that the team has little choice but to expand Nicolas’ snaps this fall.
That puts the pressure on the junior defensive end to show that he’s up to the challenge in 2014. The Virginia Tech pass rush needs someone to step up and provide a presence off the edge and Dadi Nicolas has the tools to make it happen. How well he fills out his expanded role this fall will go a long way in determining how competitive the Hokies will be in the ACC title race.