SPRINGDALE, Ark. — Among his 12 FBS offers, Missouri is currently the favorite for 2018 defensive lineman Isaiah Nichols.
A Springdale (Ark.) High School recruit, Nichols visited Columbia earlier this spring and expects to make another.
“I took a trip down to Mizzou about two months ago and that was really nice,” Nichols recently told SEC Country. “I really like it there. The coaching staff was amazing.”
Nichols’ attraction to Missouri, in large part, can be traced to the Tigers’ recent track record of turning lower-rated defensive linemen into NFL talents.
Eight former Missouri defensive linemen have been drafted since 2009. Five of those were selected in the first round with end Charles Harris being the most recent.
Harris, once a 2-star recruit, became a two-time All-SEC selection at Mizzou. He was selected 22nd overall by the Miami Dolphins in the 2017 NFL Draft. Shane Ray, Aldon Smith and Ziggy Hood arrived at Missouri as 3-star defensive linemen and also became first-round picks over the past decade.
Nichols fits a similar profile. Rivals and Scout give him a 3-star rating. The other two major recruiting ranking outlets — 247Sports and ESPN — currently have him unrated.
“I know they have a good history of turning under-recruited guys and turning them into big stars that go to the NFL and produce there,” Nichols said. “Not just guys that go to the NFL to be a name. That’s something I’ve been considering. If they see something in me that they saw in those other guys, then I must be doing something right and heading down the right path.”
Nichols received his first offer from Arkansas State in late January. His recruitment picked up ever since. Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Mississippi State and North Carolina State are among his offers this spring. His offer from Missouri came during his visit.
In addition to Mizzou, Nichols visited Arkansas several times and made a trip to Alabama for the Crimson Tide’s junior day. Nichols calls the Razorbacks co-leaders with the Tigers, though he hasn’t received an offer from his in-state program. He grew up an Arkansas fan, and his high school is less than 15 miles from the campus.
Listed as a defensive end recruit, Nichols could play any position in a number of schemes at the next level. Springdale used him at end last season and expects to have him primarily play tackle as a senior. He’ll also likely be used in certain packages at tight end and is capable of helping at offensive tackle.
“I think he’s an interior defensive lineman,” Springdale coach Zak Clark said. “He can play end, but I think he’s going to grow and get even bigger and still remain as explosive as he is. He’s about 275 and, for us, we need him at tackle. He’s gained 50 pounds since he’s been here in two years. I think it won’t be long when he gets to college that he’s going to be a 300-pound kid. I think he fits that perfectly.”