Michigan State safety Montae Nicholson announced via Twitter his decision to forgo his senior year and declare for the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia. Nicholson joins Malik McDowell as the second Spartan junior to declare for the draft this offseason.
— Montae Nicholson (@MontaeNicholson) December 30, 2016
“Montae Nicholson is a dynamic and explosive football player who helped our program achieve great success during his time as a Spartan with wins in the Cotton Bowl and Big Ten Championship Game and a berth in the College Football Playoff,” said MSU coach Mark Dantonio in a released statement. “We wish him the best in his future as he continues his dream to play in the NFL.”
The 6-foot-2, 219-pound strong safety out of Pennsylvania arrived in East Lansing in 2014, where he appeared in all 13 games, three of which he started as a true freshman. Nicholson compiled 31 tackles, the most among first-year players, and was selected for the ESPN and BTN Big Ten All-Freshman Teams. He also recovered two fumbles.
Nicholson had a breakout sophomore campaign, starting in 10 games and appearing in all 14 while racking up 83 tackles, which was the third most on the team. He also produced four turnovers–three interceptions and one forced fumble–along with two pass deflections.
Nicholson’s tackle total improved to 86 in 11 games for his junior year—good for second on the team. He also had one interception, two pass deflections and one fumble recovery. This earned him honorable mention All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and media.
Nicholson’s decision to declare for the draft was a bit surprising. The buzz surrounding MSU’s offseason thus far has been about McDowell’s decision to go pro. Few expected Nicholson to do the same.
But Nicholson’s 2016 numbers were not any more impressive than those of 2015. He finished with only three more tackles and two less interceptions than he did last season. He also led an MSU secondary that was one of the worst in the conference.
That said, Nicholson had three less games to improve on his statistics from 2015. He was also ridden with injuries, which limited him against Michigan and caused him to sit out against Illinois. Although the secondary as a whole was unimpressive, Nicholson played less cover defense than fellow safety Demetrious Cox and focused more on tackling, which is his strong suit.
Nicholson was the hardest hitting defensive back for the Spartans, and he is betting on his skills as a hard-hitting defensive back to secure his spot in the NFL draft.
“[Nicholson] was a three-year contributor and a consistent starter for us the last two seasons,” said Dantonio in regards to Nicholson’s departure. “Montae is an extremely talented athlete who should test well in his preparation for the NFL draft.”