Virginia coach Mike London occasionally has to remind himself that the veteran in his defensive secondary is only entering his second season.
"He's playing with some young safeties," London said Thursday, referring to sophomore corner back Demetrious Nicholson, before cracking a smile.
"I say young safeties," London said. "Here he is, just a sophomore himself."
Nicholson started all 13 games for the Cavaliers in 2011, becoming the program's first true freshman to start the season opener at Virginia since 2005. He finished the season fourth on the team with 60 tackles, intercepted a pair of passes, and tied Chase Minnifield for the team lead with eight pass break-ups.
This summer, Nicholson is the only starter back in the secondary for the Cavaliers.
"It definitely has put a lot of pressure on me to be the guy," he said Thursday. "To be a leader; to be the guy we look at on film and be like, "He's doing it right," for the younger guys to follow.
"And I'm still young myself. I'm still learning," Nicholson admitted. "But I'm going to use the experiences that I got, and try to lead those guys."
London thinks Nicholson has greatly benefited by getting the opportunity to play a season with Minnifield, an All-ACC performer in 2011 who is now on the Redskins' Injured Reserve list.
"Having a guy like Chase Minnifield with him has rubbed off on him, in terms of his preparation. He comes out here and he works everyday," London said.
"I took a whole lot from him. He's a great guy, a great leader. He was the definition of a leader," said Nicholson. "He prepared hard. He worked hard everyday in practice, never took a rep off. And being around a guy like that, you can't do nothing else but follow in those footsteps. Bring along things that you already have for yourself, and just put it all together."
Nicholson admitted on Thursday that even though he was a freshman, he wasn't satisfied with his performance in 2011. But he hopes to use his experiences to help the new faces filling the holes around him in the secondary.
"Mistakes I made last year, I can tell the young guys about it. And I can also better myself by not making the same mistakes this year," Nicholson said. "I'm more comfortable. Things are becoming more noticeable. I'm starting to recognize things, and just learn the overall game."
"He's a special player. He's a special person," said London. "In the classroom, in the community, on the field. We're glad we have him."