As we move ahead in our countdown of the Top 60 players at UM, we wrap up the second half of our list by taking a look at No. 31: Safety Jojo Nicolas. The junior-to-be has been overshadowed of late by the arrival and return of other players at his position. But will Nicolas just get passed up on the depth chart or will he give new defensive coordinator John Lovett a reason to let him keep the lead role at a position he started at eight times last year?
> What we heard about him on Signing Day '07: Nicolas didn't come to UM with a lot of hype even though he was a tremendous playmaker in high school. At Homestead High, he caught 32 passes for 400 yards and six touchdowns and had four forced fumbles and an interceptions as a safety. But Rivals and Scout both rated him a three-star recruit, rating him the nation's 30th best and 48th best safety respectively. He chose the Canes over Rutgers and basketball offers from FAU, Tulsa and UTEP.
> What he's done as a Cane: After making his first career interception in his first game against Marshall, Nicolas spent most of his freshman season playing on special teams. He played in 11 games and returned for his sophomore season hoping to compete for playing time at safety. He started eight games last year, played in 11 and recorded 31 tackles -- including seven against Georgia Tech. The 6-1, 197-pounder still hasn't had another interception since his first game (then again how many Canes did last year?).
> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: With all the excitement over the return of Randy Phillips and Vaughn Telemaque and incoming freshman Ray Ray Armstrong, Nicolas has become sort of the forgotten man at safety. In case you missed it, he did start in eight games last year. Defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff told me last March Nicolas has tremendous instincts, but is a quiet leader. Whether he's loud or not, I still expect Nicolas to be in the rotation in the secondary and a contributor on special teams. He's too athletically gifted -- 4.49 in the 40, 38 1/2 inch vertical -- to not get on the field somehow and help.