Riley Nicholson's start at FSU wasn't the first of his young Wolfpack career. In fact, the true freshman earned the start a few weeks back at home against Clemson. He struggled early, and even though he totaled four tackles, Nicholson played just 25 snaps in the loss.
"Clemson, it was my first start," said Nicholson. "I was actually pretty nervous."
He played nine snaps in the win at Boston College before getting another starting opportunity. This time it came in his home state of Florida against Florida State.
"It was pretty cool," said Nicholson. "I didn't imagine myself doing that probably two years ago. I probably imagined myself more playing for FSU, but I had a great opportunity to play, and playing against the home-state team. I thought it was pretty cool.
"It was cool getting to play against great competition."
According to Nicholson, his experience against Clemson gave him confidence for his next opportunity.
"Coming to Florida State, I had my first start under my belt and it was against the No. 1 team in the nation," he said. "I could just go out there and play my own game. That was what I was trying to do coming into the game, just calming down and play."
He played a season-high 71 snaps in the loss, totaling six tackles and a tackle for a loss. What did he think of his play after the game?
"I knew I had to get back in the palybook," said Nicholson. "I got out there and kind of calmed down and settled down, started to play. I just have to play a little faster and less stressed I guess you could say."
Dave Doeren is extremely high on his true freshman linebacker.
"We're excited about Riley," said Doeren. "We think he has a good future. He's a knee-bender, he's strong, and he comes from a great program. He's a kid that can play MIKE and WILL. He's a sure tackler. He can run and change directions.
"Now it's just getting him game reps. He had a few mistakes that hurt us, but he's a freshman and that's going to happen when you play a freshman. He's on every special teams and we have to find a way to keep him fresh."
Joining Nicholson in the lineup at linebacker is sophomore Airius Moore, the Wolfpack's leading tackler. Because of their versatility, Nicholson and Moore can play either linebacker position in the Wolfpack's 4-2-5 scheme which is a positive.
"As far as the future of the position, I think him and Airius both can run and hit," Doeren said. "We like that about both of those two guys. We have some good kids coming up in the program eventually. It's a position that needs to get better for sure, but we like the way those two kids play."
"We hang out a lot so we're prety familiar with everything," Nicholson said of Moore. "We actually just talked with coach Hux about some of the run-fits. We're a lot alike as far as being the same player, and we both watch film together so it helps us learn both positions."
Next up for the Wolfpack defense is a matchup with Atlantic Division foe Syracuse. What is the major point of emphasis this week?
"You have to stop the run," Nicholson said. "I think they ran for like 270 yards against Clemson last week so that'st he main goal for us linebackers. I know we're playing in the box a lot so we have to stop the run."