Matthew Stevens via Sports Illustrated
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Illinois’ 2020 recruiting class got a surprise prep school signee on the first day of the February signing period.
Tahveon Nicholson, a two-star signee from Palmetto Prep Academy in Columbia, S.C., signed a National Letter-of-Intent to become the 13th signee of the Illini’s 2020 class. Nicholson is a 5-foot-11 and 170-pound athlete who Illinois announced as a defensive back when the signing was announced Wednesday morning.
Nicholson, who took an official visit to Illinois last week, signed with Florida Atlantic nearly one year ago from today but was unable to enroll after failing to become an NCAA academic qualifier. Therefore, Nicholson enrolled at Palmetto Prep after graduating from Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Fla., and was recruited heavily by Illinois defensive backs coach Keynodo Hudson.
After losing its only four-star commitment and only in-state verbal pledge (Naperville Central wide receiver Jadon Thompson) in its 2020 recruiting class to Cincinnati Tuesday night, Illinois was not expected to sign a prospect today to add to the 2020 class. Illini head coach Lovie Smith said Monday that a big class will not happen during this February signing period and Illinois coaches are holding back scholarships in order to be active in the graduate transfer market.
According to 247Sports.com, Nicholson had four interceptions and forced a fumble in his one season at Palmetto Prep. He also was productive on offense as an athletic slot receiver with 721 receiving yards and 355 rushing yards while also averaging 29.6 yards per kick return on special teams.
Nicholson is the first defensive back signee of the Illini’s 2020 recruiting class and Illinois will have several starters and contributors returning for the upcoming season including Sydney Brown, Nate Hobbs, Devon Witherspoon, and Delano Ware.
Nicholson’s signing slightly lifted Illinois’ team recruiting class ranking according to 247Sports.com from 90th to No. 87 but did not lift the Illini out of the basement of the 14-team Big Ten Conference.