Back Nick Bolton Ready for the Next Level

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Nick Bolton Ready for the Next Level

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Nick Bolton has very much earned first-round attention as the 2021 NFL Draft approaches.

Over the past two seasons, Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton compiled 202 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 13 pass deflections as one of the most active and dominant defensive players in all of college football. First team All-SEC in both 2019 and 2020 and a second-team All-American this past fall, Bolton is the type of sideline-to-sideline, every-down player you can build a defense around. His resume, thriving for multiple years in college football's top conference, speaks for itself.

Bolton has very much earned first-round attention as the 2021 NFL Draft approaches.

Athletic and instinctive, consistent and versatile, the quickness he brings to the field is the next level's new modern prototype. Remarkably, Bolton has shown the ability to both make plays at the line of scrimmage, see an SEC-high 74 solo tackles in 2019, and be effective in coverage downfield, with ten passes defended that same season. He is a complete linebacker, with the credentials to prove it. That multi-faceted ability makes Bolton a rare defensive playmaker.  

This past year, Bolton ranked 7th in the SEC with 95 total tackles and third with 55 individual stops. He also added eight tackles for loss, five pass deflections, two sacks and a fumble recovery against top-ranked Alabama in ten games overall. Bolton's sophomore season was one for the ages: 107 total tackles, 74 solo stops, which ranked in the top five nationally, eight pass deflections, 7.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and a pick-six. He also helped Missouri rank in the top three in the SEC in total defense.

The read-and-react ability Bolton has, and the range he covers the field with, is helping defenses counter the more open offensive schemes that are now so commonplace.

In Super Bowl LV, all-everything linebacker Devin White helped lead Tampa Bay's historic defensive effort. His speed, impactful on nearly every play, was the game's ultimate x-factor. Current NFL defenses need active linebackers who excel in space and can do a number of different things depending upon the down-and-distance. Bolton has that upside to his game. The former LSU superstar White (6'0'', 237) plays with an impact well beyond traditional metrics and so does Bolton (6'0'', 232). Interestingly enough, just two SEC linebackers the last seven years have had a season with at least 60 solo tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and six pass deflections: White and Bolton.

One year after White led the league with 123 total tackles, Bolton promptly paced the conference with 8.92 tackles per game. He moves to the professional ranks with an impressive track record

Not only is Bolton one of the top linebackers in the SEC in recent memory and a standout prospect ahead of the upcoming NFL Draft, he may prove to be the new era NFL defender. Bolton, as his college career shows, can do it all.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports