Isaiah Nichols received an offer from Arkansas last Sunday, and suddenly the hard part of his recruitment was finished.
For a lot of recruits, the process can become most difficult when offers have piled up. Nichols’ list of offers had grown to 14, all coming within the past five months. There could have been more visits to schools such as Iowa State, Kansas State and Mississippi State, or a return trip to Missouri.
But the 2018 defensive lineman from Springdale (Ark.) High School essentially had his mind made up long ago. He grew up cheering for the Razorbacks. The chance to become a Hog is what he’d been working toward. It’s why he went to Arkansas’ Trench Hogs camp Sunday. He wanted to prove to the coaching staff in person he had what it takes.
That mission was accomplished as coach Bret Bielema presented him with an offer after the camp. The offer didn’t necessarily mean the chance would be there for long, though. Arkansas expects to take three defensive linemen in its 2018 class.
Independence (Kan.) Community College defensive tackle Emmit Gooden committed the same day Nichols received his offer. Another defensive lineman — Nicholas Fulwider from Georgia — visited the Razorbacks on Monday. Nichols saw the defensive line spots potentially filling up and had to make it official, announcing his pledge to the Hogs on Wednesday.
“To go ahead and commit, the whole situation really made sense,” Nichols told SEC Country. “I’ve always wanted to play at Arkansas. I finally got my chance and I earned it.
“I knew I wanted to commit as soon as I got the offer. So, I just went ahead and did it early enough to make sure I had a spot.”
Getting the offer this summer rather than Arkansas waiting until fall meant a lot to Nichols. It was no secret his dream was to become a Razorbacks player. The coaching staff could’ve waited to see how things went with other prospects; they could have offered Nichols much later and probably still secured his commitment.
The Hogs didn’t take that chance, though. The coaches told him he could earn an offer with a good showing at the Trench Hogs camp. He performed well, and Arkansas held true to its end of the deal. That wasn’t lost on Nichols.
“That offer, I really wanted it,” Nichols said. “I went to the camp, did pretty well, came out with the offer and I just wanted to go ahead and make it official.
“It means a lot that it didn’t draw out too long. I feel like when you start waiting a long enough time, you start to not feel like a priority. I’m just glad that I got the offer and commitment out of the way. It just makes me feel more wanted.”
Nichols began playing football in 2015 when he moved from Little Rock to Springdale. Despite the limited time on the field — he’s played in roughly 15 games — his knowledge and versatility are a couple of his greatest assets.
When he broke his arm as a sophomore, Nichols spent the time on the sidelines learning the game. He’d watch film relentlessly, studying all aspects of how to become a better player. Springdale coach Zak Clark calls the injury somewhat of a blessing in disguise, allowing Nichols to catch up on the knowledge he lacked having never played.
Nichols is capable of playing a number of positions. He’s played linebacker, defensive end, offensive and defensive tackle, and tight end during his time at Springdale. He’ll play mostly defensive tackle as a senior at Springdale, but expects to play end at the next level.
At 6-foot-4, 275 pounds, he could grow into a nose tackle in the Hogs 3-4 scheme.
Though his position may not be set in stone, Nichols’ love for the Razorbacks certainly is cemented.