Last season 2012 DT Nikeem Ladson of Wade Hampton High School (Greenville) emerged on our radar. After seeing him once last season we made a note to keep an eye on him. After seeing him that second game we knew he was a player that will be playing on the next level if he continues his upward trend. That's why Ladson is the latest player to be featured in our "UP NEXT" series.
Standing 6'3 288 pounds not many people would've recognized the "old Nikeem Ladson" compared to his current physical state. Ladson was in the 290 to 300 pound range last season but an intense focus in the weight room has changed his physique. He's faster, stronger, and that doesn't bode well for offenses he'll face next season.
Despite playing with what many will call baby fat last season Ladson had a very good season. He impressed us twice against some strong teams and he talked about one game that he felt he performed well.
"The best game I had was against Eastside High School. I can't remember my numbers exactly, but I do remember that I had a lot of tackles in that game," Ladson said.
One of those marquee matchups that he showed well in our presence was against perennially strong Chester High School and their 3-star quarterback Tony McNeal who is headed to Clemson. Ladson said McNeal was the best player he faced last season.
"The toughest player I faced was the Chester quarterback, Tony McNeal. What made him tough was how he moved around in the pocket and got the ball off really quick."
Ladson built a solid foundation during his junior season and he keyed on the areas where he excelled for the Generals anchoring their defensive line.
"This past season I was strong in my pass rush ability, ability to read plays, and speed."
Unsure of the amount of total tackles he had his junior season statistics Ladson has already made it a personal mission to challenge himself in the weight room. So far he's seen the aforementioned transformation in his physique and some increased speed. Ladson did inform us that he had 6 sacks and 4 fumble recoveries this season.
"This offseason I'm really working hard on improving my strength, adding new moves, and working on technique."
Given his body of work to this point Ladson is already hearing from a couple of ACC and SEC schools so far. He talked about one of those schools who has started to show him heightened interest as well.
For now Ladson says he has no other visits pending but he's hoping to hear from more schools soon.
As of now Ladson holds no offers but is hoping that his hard work will change that status soon. Most schools are recruiting him as a defensive tackle but the 2012 prospect says he's comfortable playing both tackle and end.
If the right offer and situation presented itself Ladson says he'd likely commit early.
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INSIDE THE NUMBERS...NIKEEM LADSON
Bench press: 315 pounds
Squat: 405 pounds
Power clean: 250 pounds
Fastest 40: 4.94 seconds
A CLOSER LOOK...NIKEEM LADSON
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite movie: Takers
Favorite actor: Jet Li
Favorite subject in school: Math
Favorite thing to do when not playing football: Playing basketball
What woman would you love to take out on a dream date: Megan Good