Virginia cornerback Demetrious Nicholson was one of the best true freshmen in the nation in 2011, when he earned freshman All-America acclaim after finishing with 60 tackles, two interceptions and eight pass breakups.
Nicholson (5-feet-11, 185 pounds) was disappointed in his 2012 performance, when he had 56 tackles and 15 pass breakups -- but no interceptions. He's confident he will get some picks this season.
New coordinator Jon Tenuta is one of the most aggressive defensive play-callers in college football; he loves to blitz, and even when he doesn't blitz, he wants his guys in attack mode. Nicholson said that style of play will pay off for him and his secondary mates; the Cavs managed just four interceptions last season, a total that was fourth-fewest in the nation.
"Man coverages, zone coverages -- whatever we're in, most of the time [Tenuta is] putting us in position to make a play on the ball," Nicholson told the Charlottesville (Va.) Daily Progress. "It's going to be up to the corners to catch interceptions when they come their way and get the opportunity."
He said he thinks the added pressure on opposing quarterbacks will be helpful to the secondary.
"I should be able to take more chances out there," he told the Daily Progress. "I got zero interceptions last year. I should have more opportunities and so I have to believe what I see and just go get it, not be passive."
Nicholson should vie for first-team All-ACC honors this fall and has a chance to be the best corner in the league. He has started every game the past two seasons, and in 2011, he was the first true freshman to start a game at corner for the Cavs since 1986. Nicholson has excellent speed (he has been clocked as fast as 4.35 seconds in the 40) and is active and physical in run support.
Virginia coaches are looking for a big season from Nicholson, who is the leader of a secondary that returns all four starters -- and all four are juniors.
"He needs to turn those pass breakups into interceptions," cornerback coach Chip West told the Daily Progress. "I know he had a lot of PBUs last year, but we need [Nicholson] to get his hands on more footballs."