The 90 Illini #19: Taz Nicholson
You have currently viewed 1 story this month.
IlliniBoard now offers two free stories per month, for more please subscribe.
It's 2022 and the 2020 Illini recruiting class barely exists. It was always going to be a small class, given that there were only 11 seniors on the team in 2019. That Senior Day took about 12 minutes.
So it wasn't really unexpected that the 2020 signing class would only have 14 names. And yes, there's always going to be attrition. But as Taz Nicholson enters his sophomore year, only three of his classmates remain: Reggie Love, Johnny Newton, and Hugh Robertson. The other 10:
- TE Cooper Davis (left team last year, looks like he's still a student just not playing football)
- WR James Frenchie (transferred to Missouri Southern)
- LB Lavar Gardner (juco who signed but did not enroll in the summer of 2020)
- OL Phifer Griffin (entered portal in June of 2021, looks like he didn't land anywhere)
- DL Quinton McCoy (left the team at the end of training camp last year - maybe just quit football?)
- DL Tre'Von Riggins (transferred to Jackson State)
- DL Anthony Shipton (transferred to Texas State)
- WR Deuce Spann (transferred to Florida State)
- OL Blaise Sparks (transferred to Delaware)
- OL Kevin Tyler (transferred to Prairie View A&M)
So now the 2020 recruiting class is just Nicholson, Love, Newton, and our 29 year-old Australian punter.
(Miss you, Deuce.)
19. Taz Nicholson
Uniform number: 10
Year in school: Sophomore (without the Covid waiver, 3 years to play 3; with the Covid waiver, technically 4 years to play 3)
Height: 5'-11" -- Weight: 180 lbs.
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
High School: Lee HS
Prep School: Palmetto Academy
Five best offers: Southern Miss, Troy, Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee State, Charleston Southern
Tom Cruise rating:
2021 statistics: Played in eight games, starting two. 11 tackles and 2 PBUs.
Taz starting the Maryland and Charlotte games was one of the bigger surprises last season. He was a late-addition recruit in 2020 (visiting and signing just before Signing Day), and he didn't play in 2020 as a true freshman, so coming into camp last year, he was just a redshirt freshman corner who was a Plan B recruit (he more or less got the scholarship that Jadon Thompson vacated when Jadon Thompson flipped to Cincinnati). Then, on September 17th, he's... starting at corner over Tony Adams?
Perhaps Adams had some kind of injury or concussion that week, forcing the move. Or perhaps the staff was trying to motivate Tony after a poor Virginia game. Whatever the reason, it was a massive surprise to see freshman Taz Nicholson starting a game.
Adams eventually pushed Nicholson back to the bench. And there were games where the staff used Eddie Smith as the third cornerback, not Nicholson. But now, with Adams gone, it looks like Nicholson is the heavy favorite to be the starting cornerback opposite Devon Witherspoon.
I should note... I don't think that's set in stone. Often, after a four-year starter graduates and there's no clear replacement on deck, the first half of the season is "let's maybe give three different guys some snaps there". So he'll need to battle for this spot. The most likely scenario, though, is that our cornerback pairing the next two seasons will be Spoon and Taz.