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Virginia Tech’s Nicolas stars as stand-up rusher

Tech’s Nicolas has breakout game against Pittsburgh

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BLACKSBURG — “Dadi left, Dadi right.”

It wasn’t a new defensive play call. That’s what Virginia Tech senior linebacker Jack Tyler said he shouted out before many defensive plays during Saturday’s 19-9 win over Pittsburgh, as he attempted to help get sophomore Dadi Nicolas lined up correctly.

Nicolas, a defensive end, played outside linebacker for the first time Saturday, and the results were impressive. He had career highs with three sacks and seven tackles, disrupting Pittsburgh’s offense all afternoon.

“Really his only responsibility was to go off the edge and go after the quarterback,” Tyler said. “That was his one job. And we had to get him lined up a few times, but Dadi, he’s coming along. He’s going to be, down the road, I can’t even imagine what he’s going to turn into, because once he gets everything going mentally, physically he’s there.”

Neither Nicolas or Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster were made available to the media after Saturday’s win, but Tyler said the Hokies moved Nicolas to the outside — or whip — linebacker position this week in an attempt to mimic what Virginia did against Pittsburgh two weeks earlier.

Virginia sacked Pitt quarterback Tom Savage seven times in a loss. Tech got Savage eight times — and missed a slew of other sack chances.

Nicolas, 6-foot-3 and 224 pounds, who had 12 tackles and one sack in the first six games this year, was in the middle of most of that defensive success.

“He’s a talented guy,” Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “We’re moving him around, getting him to pass rush from different positions. And he showed up there. He’s a force back there and has a real talent for rushing the quarterback.“

With Pitt’s offensive line sliding its protection to account for Nicolas, it opened up things inside for Tech’s defensive tackles. Senior Derrick Hopkins finished with four tackles and two sacks.

“They were just sliding the whole front that way and I just beat the guard and beat the center a little bit,” Hopkins said. “We had a great game plan. Putting Dadi at whip and blitzing him. It was a great plan and we executed it.”

Nicolas is a raw talent at defensive end. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, before moving to Delray Beach, Fla., He played just one season of high school football, his senior year at Atlantic High.

He was a late signee in Tech’s 2011 recruiting class and redshirted in 2011. Last season, he played in 10 games, with 17 tackles and two sacks.

“He’s such a great kid at heart. He really is,” Tyler said. “He’s still learning because he hasn’t been playing football that long. Credit to him, because he really has come such a long way from where he started.“

After his big game, Nicolas tweeted, “I have a lot to learn about football and looking forward to growing as a player.”

Nicolas is learning the game as he goes. Saturday, Tyler and fellow linebacker Tariq Edwards were responsible for making sure he was in the right spot before the snap. After the snap? That was all up to Nicolas.

“If you watch the film, I’m kind of pushing him to one side, calling out, ‘Dadi left. Dadi right’ “ Tyler said. “We were going to have to do that.”

Tyler said he doesn’t expect to see Nicolas playing as stand-up rusher on regular basis, now that opposing teams will be a bit more prepared for it.

“I think it was just a matchup today,” Tyler said. “Because now everybody knows that he’s just going to rush the passer. You can’t drop him into coverage or anything like that. If we can get him to drop into coverage, then maybe, but we’ll just take the baby steps right now.”

mbarber@timesdispatch.com

(804) 980-6188

@RTD_MikeBarber

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