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Thursday, October 10, 2013
Six competing for ESPN 300 athlete

By Jared Shanker

Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) has had a “short” list of about a dozen schools since the spring, but the ESPN 300 athlete is finally narrowing things it down. Six schools remain as the most likely options for the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Nicholson, who will likely play defensive back in college.

RecruitingNation breaks down where each school stands with Nicholson and what a commitment from the No. 252 prospect nationally would mean to their program.

Montae Nicholson
Montae Nicholson is ranked No. 252 in the ESPN 300.
Florida State: Nicholson’s most recent official visit was to Tallahassee this past weekend. His mother, Jackie Crawford, accompanied him and said it was a positive experience for both of them. Crawford was happy with the plan Florida State has for her son both academically and athletically. Nicholson liked the atmosphere and how the Noles tend to play a lot of defensive backs in substitution packages. Defensive back is a position the Seminoles have recruited well, but there is always the possibility of players leaving early with all the talent that resides in Tallahassee. Nicholson might not be an immediate contributor, but he is a student of the game -- so much so Crawford says it rubs off on her -- and could see the field by his second season. Nicholson has a lot of range as a free safety and could be the future “center fielder” of the Noles’ defense.

Michigan State: The Spartans are possibly the biggest sleeper in Nicholson’s recruitment. He enjoyed his official visit to Michigan State in September, and his recruitment could play out a lot like Demetrius Cox’s did in 2012. The Spartans were always in the conversation for the fellow Pittsburgh-area DB before landing his signature come signing day. Michigan State has one of the best defenses nationally and have developed defensive backs well the last few seasons. Relatively young in the secondary, Nicholson might go the same route as Cox if he does land in East Lansing. Cox redshirted as a freshman.

Oregon: The Ducks are the biggest question mark here, but answers will come shortly. Nicholson will get his first look at Oregon’s program on Oct. 25 when he arrives for his official visit. Oregon has hung around in Nicholson’s top group for several months so there is a genuine interest in the Ducks. A strong visit to Eugene could dramatically alter Nicholson’s recruitment.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions have not received an official visit, but Nicholson and his mother have visited Penn State multiple times. There is not much left that Nicholson needs to see to feel comfortable in State College. A commitment from Nicholson would be big for the Lions, as assistant coach Charles London hopes to mine more of Western Pennsylvania’s rich talent base. Nicholson would almost certainly see some playing time as a freshman at Penn State, as the Lions lose two safeties and Adrian Amos would be a senior. Penn State could use the help, too, as the defense allowed 486 yards including 336 through the air in a loss to Indiana last Saturday.

Pittsburgh: The reason why the Panthers need Nicholson is simple. From a recruiting standpoint, Paul Chryst simply cannot allow too many of Western Pennsylvania’s top prospects to leave the area. On the field, the Panthers’ defensive secondary has been torched by Florida State (which is to be somewhat expected) and Duke (eh, not so much). Pitt only has one defensive back listed taller and heavier than Nicholson’s listed frame of 6-2, 210. There is an opportunity for Nicholson to help a struggling defense early, and Chryst is not afraid to play highly-rated freshmen (see: Tyler Boyd and Dorian Johnson).

Virginia Tech: The Hokies face an uphill battle for Nicholson, but there is a chance he officially visits Virginia Tech before the season is over. He wants to have a decision wrapped up by December so a visit could come sometime in November. A commitment to Virginia Tech would give an already stellar defense one of the strongest future defensive backfields. Brandon Facyson is a freshman star, and fellow cornerback Kendall Fuller was their highest-rated 2013 signee. Safety Holland Fisher will enroll after a year at prep school, and ESPN 300 athlete Ja’Von Harrison and four-star Travon McMillian could both end up in the defensive secondary. Talented defensive back Cequan Jefferson could be on the 2014 squad as well, joining Fisher from the prep ranks.