FAYETTEVILLE — Defensive tackle Isaiah Nichols is having a very productive spring drawing praise often from Sam Pittman.
Nichols is a 6-foot-3, 302-pound redshirt senior from Springdale who has a chance to be a key member of Arkansas’ defense this fall. He has lettered three years after choosing the Hogs out of high school. Nichols talked about his progress this spring.
“You know I’ve really been focusing on details,” Nichols said. “I’ve been working on my feet. I know the emphasis today was making sure I’m getting ground on my feet. The past couple of weeks I’ve been making sure when we take slant stuff into the zone or they’re zoning stuff I’ve overstepped and getting out of my gap. I’ve got to get vertical. Just being consistent with my hands. Flying off the ball being violent. Block destruction. Just the details and everything. Just trying to fly into everything. Just trying to be the most explosive player I can be.”
In 2021, Nichols had 21 tackles, including six solo, 3.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Nichols and Hogs have been working on both the three-man and four-man fronts this spring. How are the linemen doing under Deke Adams with the multiple fronts?
“I think they look really well,” Nichols said. “Coach Adams is doing a really good job of you know getting everybody prepared to go play. The way he teaches the 3-down and the way he teaches the 4-down I think we’ll have a lot of success with both of them. Now that we’ve been doing a little more 4-down stuff in camp and it’s looking really good. Me, personally I’ve been loving it, I know the guys have mentioned that, too.”
Nichols has seen a lot of changes on the defensive line playing for a new coach each season. Overall, he talked about how his time at Arkansas has been.
“I mean, it’s definitely been a crazy journey leading up until now,” Nichols said. “You know, I would say I’m proud of it in the sense that I’m getting better, but I think I have a lot more left, meaning a lot more growing to do. And just like anybody, the best have a lot more growing to do too. So I try not to think too highly of what I’ve done, and try to focus more on what I can do and what I can do better. So I mean, to answer your question, yes, I’m proud of where I’ve come from when I started four years ago, but you know, my day to day focus is on what I can do to get better how I can be better next practice, or next game or the next day than I was the previous day.”
The transfer portal has changed college football and last season the three starters on the defensive line were all newcomers. Nichols talked about the transfer portal.
“I feel like it can be even easier get along with an older guy that comes in,” Nichols said. “Especially one that has come from the SEC or a good, solid team because they’re not coming here to lose. They come here because they believe in the program just like just like the freshmen that come in. When we get in here, it’s like we’re all on the same page and we have a family environment here. So like when (Latavious) Brini came in and Nudie (Dwight McGlothern) and other guys that come transfer in, it’s like we click instantly because we’re all trying to win. So there’s no room for trying to single one guy out or treating somebody differently because they used to play for another school. It’s like if you’re here and you’re wearing red, you’re family.”
Former LSU defensive end Landon Jackson enrolled at midterm and started practicing this past week. Nichols likes what he has seen from the former four-star standout.
“From just seeing him come back, and I told him too, I said he looks good,” Nichols said. “Like the way he can move, he’s been going through bags, good feet, you know, especially coming off the ACL injury and you know, injuring his ankles and stuff. He moves good. He looks like he’s been doing footwork and hands drills and he looks good. I think he’s gonna help us out a lot once he gets completely healthy.”
In addition to Taurean Carter, another impressive inside defensive lineman working with Nichols this spring is redshirt freshman Cam Ball. He has impressed Nichols.
“I personally think Cam Ball is going to be very good,” Nichols said. “He’s still young and you see in this conference that most of the best guys in the D-line are older. You’ve got some young guys who are good, too, but once I feel like he gets older, matures and understands the game better and changes his body, I think he’s going to be really good. He has the work ethic. He can take coaching. He’s not a selfish guy. When he gets on the field, he makes plays all the time, so it’s not a surprise. I really think highly on Cam. I think he’s going to come along just fine.”