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A ‘Good Group of Nickels’ Makes for an Intense Position Battle

August 14, 2018

With the rise in spread offenses and multiple receiver sets, the nickel corner position has essentially become a 12th starter spot in most defenses. Plenty of words have been written and spoken about the outside corner race featuring the likes of Lamar Jackson, Will Jackson, Dicaprio Bootle, Cam Taylor and others, but there is a battle raging in the slot as well.

“We’ve got some good guys that can play that position,” defensive backs coach Travis Fisher said about the nickel spot. “JoJo Domann has come along and has helped us out a lot. He’s shown some upside and he can play, definitely play in the back end. Dicaprio can play in there. Some of the young guys can play in there in the nickel position. Antonio Reed can play in there at that position. We’re pretty versatile with who can play at that position. For the most part, today you saw Ethan Cox, you saw Dicaprio Bootle at the position today.”

Another player Fisher mentioned later that is in the mix is Taylor, the true freshman. Cox (a walk-on), Bootle and Taylor are all corners while Domann and Reed are safeties. Last season, cornerback Eric Lee Jr. played a lot of the snaps in that spot while safety Aaron Williams has experience in the slot as well.

What kind of attributes is Fisher looking for at the nickel position?

“The same traits that I’m looking for in the other positions,” Fisher said. “I’m just looking for guys that play within the defense first, then looking for guys that are gritty at that position, can tackle, can cover, and just the basic things that I would be looking for at the other positions. Right now, I think we have a good group of nickels. It’ll be fun and exciting to see who ends up falling into that spot at the end of camp.”

Domann is an intriguing option for Fisher. The safety made an immediate impact on special teams when he arrived from Colorado Springs and looked to be pushing for significant playing time on defense as a sophomore during spring ball before tearing his ACL and missing all of the 2017 season, then tearing it again while trying to make his way back. Now, he’s back on the field and looking to pick up where he left off.

“JoJo is very versatile,” Fisher said. “That’s one of the things I didn’t know. I heard about him when I got here, but he’s been pretty banged up previously before we got here, so I didn’t get a chance to see him until this camp. I think from the first day of camp, I was like ‘Whoa, this kid can play.’ We’ve been trying to find a way to get JoJo on the field and get him in the mix. For the most part, JoJo is making himself known on film and doing a great job. But he is also learning the defense just like everybody else, so he has some mistakes here and there. For the most part, he’s another one that can play multiple positions in the back end.”

Versatility seems to be a characteristic many of the defensive backs in Fisher’s room share. 

“The safeties are really good and I think some of those safeties can move around a little bit,” Fisher said. “The corner position, I like to keep those corners corners and maybe the nickel position. I like to keep those corners corners, but maybe those safeties are versatile. We don’t have a free safety, we don’t have a strong safety. We have safeties, so those guys, it depends on what side of the field they’re on — they could be asked to be in man coverage, they could be asked to be in zone; you never know. The best thing about it is we have versatile guys that can play some man coverage and play some zone.”

Every spot in the secondary still seems to be very much up for grabs nearly two weeks into fall camp, but Fisher certainly has no shortage of options from which to choose.

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