By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Manteca’s 4-star LB Nichelson narrows choices to Florida State, Oregon, UCLA
Photo by WAYNE THALLANDER Manteca linebacker Blake Nichelson leaps in an attempt to deflect the pass from Downey’s Conner Stoddard.

The recruiting process has been a whirlwind for Manteca High senior Blake Nichelson, one that will soon come to an end.

The four-star rated outside linebacker is currently on his second visit to Florida State and hopes to make a commitment to a school before the start of his senior season. Manteca opens against Vista del Lago at home on Aug. 19.

“It’s been a little crazy, with all the schools coming in to look at me and stuff like that, but I kind of enjoy it,” Nichelson said. “I feel like my hard work is paying off with all the offers. It gets a little overwhelming sometimes, but I like it at the same time.”

Nichelson has pegged Oregon, UCLA and Florida State as his top three but remains open to others. He holds 19 offers in all. Other Division I schools that have made their pitch to the 6-foor-2, 215-pound standout: Arizona, Arizona State, Boston College, BYU, Cal, Fresno State, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon State, San Jose State, USC, Utah, Utah State, Washington, Washington State and Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is the latest to enter the Blake Nichelson Sweepstakes, as the Badgers made their offer on July 20.

While there have been several athletes from the area to have had suitors from Power 5 conferences in recent years, none have had the quite the attention that Nichelson is receiving. He is No. 132nd-ranked prospect in the nation, according to 247Sports’ Top247, No. 11 for his position and No. 11 overall in California.

“There’s a little bit of pressure, but I do football for fun and I love competition,” Nichelson said. “I know that as long as I go out there and play my game I’ll continue to be successful.”

An explosive playmaker on both sides of scrimmage, Nichelson does have offers from programs recruiting him for offense but believes his future is on defense. He is the reigning Outstanding Defensive Player in the Valley Oak League and Manteca Bulletin All-Area MVP.

Last year, he led the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion with 1,876 rushing yards, 2,316 total yards (both new single-season school records as a multidimensional threat. Nichelson was also the top scorer in the state with 288 points, converting 44 touchdowns, 11 two-point conversions and a safety.

Defensively, he racked up 52 tackles with 16 for losses, 7 ½ sacks and three forced fumbles. Nichelson has prodigious production despite missing a game and a half of his junior season with a sprained ankle, which limited his reps on defense during the Buffaloes’ deep postseason run.

In Manteca’s 35-21 season-ending loss to Wilcox of Santa Clara in the California Interscholastic Federation Division II-A NorCal Regional Bowl Game, Nichelson ran for 344 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries.

“He’s a once-in-a-generation kind of talent, and we obviously saw that last year,” Manteca coach Mark Varnum said.

The recruiting process has only been part of the ride for Nichelson this offseason, which has included several invites to prestigious camps and showcases for future Saturday stars. Last April, he committed to participate in the All-American Bowl, which is set for Jan. 7, 2023 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Tex.

“It was definitely surprising to me,” Nichelson said. “I remember when I was a sophomore watching that game on television. It’s kind of shocking and an honor to be part of that now.”

He has also been selected for the 2023 Polynesian Bowl taking place Jan. 21 in Honolulu.

There is much for him to do until that time comes. The next milestone will be his verbal commitment, marking the end to this eye-opening offseason ride for Nichelson. He looks forward to getting that out of the way but admits he’ll miss the red-carpet treatment.

“The visits have been great experiences and that’s something I’ll never forget,” he said. “The whole process has been overwhelming. Now that it’s coming to an end I think I’m going to miss it a little bit, but it’ll be good to finally focus on whichever school I’ll play for the next four years.”