Evolution of Nickel Back to Continue
There was a time when a nickel back was a smallish player likely to face a smallish receiver on an opposing team that was only on the field in obvious passing situations. The position has evolved to where Nebraska now asks their best player in the secondary to man the spot in Ciante Evans. Nebraska recently received a commitment from Texas cornerback Josh Kalu that will add a 6’2” 180-lbs. player to play nickel in the future.
Evans has been a standout defender. A far cry from the days when a nickel was perhaps your fifth best defensive back. He’s made plays in the backfield (including a hurry and a sack), picked off three passes, broken up four, and forced a fumble so far this season. At 5’11” and 190 lbs., he’s not all that different physically from Kalu.
Kalu is a bit under the radar nationally but has drawn Pac-12 offers from Colorado and Washington State and ACC interest from Duke and Wake Forest. Programs like Michigan State, Boise State, and Baylor have also shown interest.
Clearly, the days of the nickel being an occasional afterthought are over. Now, it’s become a position where you recruit a physical player that can make plays all over the field. In the best of times, NU had defensive backs that could hit like linebackers (think Mike Brown and Ralph Brown) and linebackers that could run like safeties (think Troy Dumas and Jamel Williams). Kalu and Evans fit the same profile.