Sunday, June 25, 2023

Dominic Nichols, Wolverine


Ijamsville (MD) Oakdale defensive end Dominic Nichols

Ijamsville (MD) Oakdale defensive end Dominic Nichols committed to Michigan on Sunday afternoon. He picked the Wolverines over offers from Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Penn State, and Wisconsin, among others.

Nichols is listed on 247 Sports at 6'5" and 252 lbs.

ESPN: 3-star, 79 grade, #39 DE
On3: 4-star, 90 grade, #28 EDGE
Rivals: 3-star, 5.7 grade, #37 SDE
247 Sports: 3-star, 89 grade, #30 EDGE

Hit the jump for more.

Nichols was difficult to get a read on at times, at different points seeming headed to Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin. A few weeks ago, it seemed like Michigan would land him, but then a visit to Wisconsin precipitated a crystal ball pick for the Badgers, which threw me off. But in the lead-up to the Michigan visit this weekend, it seemed like momentum was back in the Wolverines' favor.

Nichols is a big body whose frame has some room to grow. He's already listed at 252 lbs. and there has been some talk that he's 6'6", though most sites list him at 6'5". He shows the ability to be physical when making tackles and taking on blockers, and he has adequate speed to close out on ball carriers. His wingspan allows him to snare some ball carriers that otherwise might slip past.

On the negative side, Nichols plays too high and, as a result of that, does not show much of an ability to convert what he sees into a sense of urgency to change direction. He takes on too many blocks in the chest and does not sufficiently use his length to shock, lock out, and shed blockers. Despite playing against a lot of smaller, less talented players, he does not disengage from tackles very efficiently. His first step is somewhat slow, and he often has to use counter moves to try to push the pocket or get a pass rush. For being a 4-star edge prospect, he very rarely wins with speed.

Overall, Nichols is a solid strongside defensive end prospect without a lot of juice. He will need to learn technique and to play lower, but I think his upside is limited due to his lack of quickness. He could end up being a Mike Morris-level standup defensive end, but just like Morris - who finished this past season with 7.5 sacks to lead the team - his ability to rush the passer might be more about being able to bully tackles into the backfield than about any sort of mismatch in athleticism. I think Michigan's defense will be more effective overall if they have more of a quick-twitch player there at that spot. Perhaps expecting an Aidan Hutchinson every year is too much, but somewhere between Hutchinson and Morris is fair to hope for on a pretty regular basis.

Michigan now has 23 commitments in the class of 2024, including several players with the ability to play "edge" positions. The only two designated "EDGE" players are Devon Baxter (LINK) and Nichols, while several others could play inside linebacker, outside linebacker, or defensive tackle. The Wolverines may have a good shot at landing Deerfield Beach (FL) Deerfield Beach outside linebacker Elias Rudolph and Cheshire (CT) Cheshire Academy edge Jacob Smith, the twin brother of Michigan commit Jerod Smith (LINK); both Rudolph and Smith are likely to make their announcement during the first week of July.

TTB Rating: 75


  1. The Edges are coming in all shapes and sizes. As discussed in other posts, this isn't a problem and, moreover, we've seen Michigan USE all shapes and sizes. In one offseason we went from Hutchinson/Ojabo to Morris/Harrell. That's +25 pounds on the strongside and -5 on the weakside. In times past we've had guys about the same size (Hutchinson/Paye/Danna) handle everything. Some of our best pass rushers have come in as 200 pound recruits and bulked up (Uche, Clark) and some of our best players were big enough to play DT (Wormley, Gary).

    Still - it's notable because other schools tend to focus on a specific 'type' for fitting into their system while Michigan wants to go the swiss army knife approach. It should work as long as they keep investing enough scholarships to the position group to get through the disappointments and flops and combine that with schematic flexibility to fit personnel.

  2. I should have put this in the post, but Nichols almost looks more like a blocking tight end than an edge prospect.

  3. I think expecting an Aiden Hutchinson every year is definitely too much - he's the best Michigan DE of our lifetimes, so a more appropriate timeline might be 50 years. Though you never know, I don't expect I'll see another EDge that good in my lifetime.

    Nor do I expect to see a QB as good as Tom Brady a CB as impactful as Charles Woodson, a WR as dangerous as Desmond Howard, or one-man show like Denard Robinson. That's what we call generational talent and as much as we may want it -- the truth is there probably isn't another one coming anytime soon.

    The range implied by Thunder in the Hutchinson/Morris continuum might be more achievable. We're talking in NFL terms of a 1st round talent vs a 5th round talent. I think, given Michigan is recruiting around 7 guys for EDGE, they should be finding at least one who can get drafted in the top 2 or 3 rounds on a regular basis - as Thunder said.

    I'm old enough to remember when EDGEs were called defensive ends (and also old enough to remember when Michigan had "rush" linebackers) so I looked back at the last 10 years and it looks like we've had a bunch of EDGE types drafted. Depending on your definition the list includes Clark, Charlton, Wormley, Gary, Winovich, Uche, Danna, Paye, Hutchinson, Ojabo, and Morris. Danna is a transfer and (IMO) we'll see many more of those in the years ahead so strike him for now.

    In terms of high school recruits that's 10 guys in 10 years who were drafted. So reasonable expectations might call for 1 NFL-caliber edge per recruiting class with about half of being selected in the top couple rounds.

    That's if things are going well. The 10 years before that during the Rodriguez and Carr eras only had 3 (Crable, Woodley and Graham).