Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel does not attempt as many passes per game as many other ACC quarterbacks, but he’s pretty efficient when he does throw the ball. Manuel’s 67.4 completion percentage ranks second in the conference, and he is averaging 239.1 passing yards per game, which ranks third in the ACC.
When Virginia plays at Florida State on Saturday, one of the players that will be charged with containing Manuel’s effectiveness through the air is true freshman cornerback Demetrious Nicholson, who played with Manuel for one season at Bayside High in Virginia Beach.
Nicholson was a freshman when Manuel was a senior, and Saturday will mark the first time outside of practice that the two ever have squared off against each other. Nicholson has started every game at cornerback for Virginia this season, and while his play thus far has been inconsistent, he’s looking forward to the challenge of facing his former high school teammate.
“We’re going to have our times where it’s going to be that feeling like I’m going to look across at him and he’s going to look across at me, and it’s going to bring back memories,” Nicholson said Monday. “But now we’re on the same field and playing on the same level.”
Nicholson has recorded two interceptions, seven pass break-ups and 43 tackles this season. He’s shown promise at times, but at others, he’s demonstrated his inexperience.
Next year, seniors Chase Minnifield and Dom Joseph will be gone, and Nicholson will stand as Virginia’s most experienced cornerback. The only other scholarship cornerbacks currently listed on the Virginia roster that will return next season are redshirt freshman Drequan Hoskey and true freshman Brandon Phelps. Sophomore Rijo Walker was moved to safety entering this season, though he played cornerback last year as a freshman and potentially could slide back into that role.
Especially considering he’ll be the elder statesman of the cornerbacks next season, Nicholson understands the experience he’s gaining this year will prove valuable down the road not just to him, but to Hoskey and Phelps, as well.
That also means he’ll need to make considerable strides in improving his own skill-set this offseason. Nicholson seems to understand that, too.
“Technique-wise, I’ve got to be more sharp,” Nicholson said. He noted that he also needs to “gain a little weight because guys are a little bigger out there. If I do those things in the offseason and just know my overall position on the field and that defense at the time, it won’t cause no confusion and it won’t have me taking false steps that I might get false reads. I’ll know what I have to do at that time, and I’ll be very confident in making moves.”