The 90 Illini #57: Taz Nicholson
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I swear I did not plan it like this, but we're on quite a run of players who arrived on the roster in an unconventional manner. I'll just run you through the players from 67 to 57.
Alec McEachern was 67, and he started as a walkon and is now on scholarship. The player ranked #66 (Matt Robinson) was added just before signing day in 2018 when we added a new offensive coordinator and he found a QB he had been recruiting at Arizona. Kionte Curry was next on my list and he joined the 2021 class this March, more than a month after late Signing Day. Then it was Tailon Letizsey, a walkon now on scholarship. Josh Plohr was #63, and he was just like Curry - didn't sign anywhere on Signing Day and then signed weeks later.
Next was Bryce Barnes, a walkon. Then Dalevon Campbell, who, you guessed it, joined the recruiting class months after his senior signing day (June, to be exact). After Campbell was Christian Bobak, walkon-turned-scholarship-player. And then Tip Reiman, walkon. Followed by Caleb Griffin, just your normal "signed as a kicker, then returned punts his sophomore year, now is listed as a kicker/wide receiver" player.
Taz Nicholson? He committed on Signing Day in 2020. Looking ahead, #56 is a transfer and 55 is another player who was added to a recruiting class at the last possible second. Which means it won't be until #54 when we'll have another "he took a few visits, then verballed to a school in June and signed in December" player. If you're scoring at home, 67 to 55 on the list this year: walkon, late signee, late signee, walkon, late signee, walkon, late signee, walkon, walkon, late signee, late signee, transfer, late signee.
57. Tahveon Nicholson
Uniform number: 23
Year in school: Freshman (without the Covid waiver, 4 years to play 4; with the Covid waiver, technically 5 years to play 4)
Height: 5'-11" -- Weight: 170 lbs.
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
High School: Lee HS
Prep School: Palmetto Prep Academy
Offers: Florida Atlantic
Tom Cruise rating:
2020 statistics: Did not play.
Nicholson originally signed with Florida Atlantic in high school but he didn't qualify. Instead of going to juco, he chose prep school at Palmetto Prep in Columbia, South Carolina. After a season at Palmetto Prep, he signed with Illinois.
He was in school last year but he returns as a freshman again. Not because he redshirted (which, technically, he did since he didn't play in any games), but because 2020 didn't count. Had he played in every game last year, he'd return this fall with 5 years to play 4 seasons. If he sat the bench every game (which he did) he returns with.... 5 years to play 4 seasons. 2020 - the year when no one could redshirt because everyone was redshirting.
There's real opportunity for Nicholson this season. The five main cornerbacks going into the fall in the order of "most likely to appear on the field":
Tony Adams (SR)
Devon Witherspoon (SO)
Kendall Smith (SR)
Taz Nicholson (FR)
Tailon Leitzsey (SR)
Adams and 'Spoon will start, but nothing is known after that. The four incoming freshmen have a real opportunity to climb into the two-deep. And Nicholson has an even better chance, given that he went through a full spring learning the new defense. So this is a very important training camp for him. A year at prep school, a Covid-shortened season in Champaign, a spring learning the new defense, and now, in his third year beyond high school, a very real chance to get into the two-deep.