Michigan State commitment Keith Nichol has been tabbed as an eventual heir to Drew Stanton since he committed to John L. Smith and the Spartans last summer.
Brian Hoyer is likely to start for two years after Stanton graduates. But Nichol, who will be a senior at Lowell (Mich.) High School this fall, has the tools to emulate Stanton's success - and then some.
Nichol is putting those skills on display this week at the national Elite 11 Quarterback Camp at SOKA University in Aliso Viejo (Calif).
Keith Nichol's father Gary Nichol has long been excited by his son's future in East Lansing. But Keith Nichol's role as Stanton's successor didn't really sink in for the elder Nichol until he watched Stanton interact with his son this week at the Elite 11.
Stanton, an Elite 11 alumnus, is a player coach at this year's camp. Michigan State's senior All-American candidate has taken Keith Nichol under his wing and the two Spartans have forged a close bond.
"This is the first time that I have truly felt that Keith has been passed the torch so to speak by Drew Stanton," said Gary Nichol after Tuesday's session. "With Drew and Keith there is really a sense of continuing something. I feel like Drew is teaching Keith and in the process really showing what a quality person he is. Drew has gone out of his way to teach Keith and prepare him for his role at Michigan State.
"Keith and Drew have developed a good chemistry and it makes me feel good to see those to guys working together. It makes me feel good about the future at Michigan State."
Stanton is one of six collegiate All-American candidates serving as player coaches at the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp. Stanton is joined by Tyler Palko (Pittsburgh), Trent Edwards (Stanford), Troy Smith (Ohio State), JaMarcus Russell (LSU), and Jordan Palmer (UTEP). Palmer is the only player coach that isn't an Elite 11 alumnus.
Gary Nichol confirmed earlier reports that his son struggled with early jitters during Monday's opening session at the Elite 11 Camp. But those jitters went away quickly and Nichol began to shine.
"I could really see Keith settle in during the second hour Monday," Gary Nichol said. "Tuesday, I could see the Keith that I saw on the practice field at Michigan State this summer. When he was at State in June and July, not every single ball was a perfect ball or a perfect completion. But his velocity, his footwork, his mechanics, and his trajectory were very solid."
Nichol has emerged as one of the top quarterbacks at the Elite 11 Camp. Student Sports reports that Nichol ranks in the top half of the Elite 11 field in both accuracy and arm strength. Nichol is also among the most athletic quarterbacks at the camp.
College quarterbacks also competed in Tuesday's accuracy competition and Nichol finished just behind Stanton in the accuracy category. He finished ahead of Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith and LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell in the same event.
Upon arriving at the Elite 11 Camp, the Nichols were welcomed by camp director and quarterbacks guru Bob Johnson.
"Bob Johnson said that they liked Keith so well when they saw him at the USC Elite 11 tryout that it was an easy selection," Mr. Nichol said. "Coach Johnson also said he was impressed with Keith's tape and even more impressed with what he saw out of him in person. He told us he was really looking forward to working with Keith."
In addition to showing a strong arm and solid accuracy, Nichol has also been lauded for his footwork and quick release by camp counselors and coaches, thus far.
Nichol has been quick to make friends at the Elite 11 Camp. He has spent a lot of time hanging out with five-star Clemson commitment Willy Korn. At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Korn and Nichol are similar in build. They also have similar styles.
"Keith and Willy have developed a brotherhood between them, so to speak," Mr. Nichol said. "Part of that is the fact that their styles are similar and because both committed so early. They have been drawn together at the camp. I can see that they have had a good relationship."
Nichol has also befriended a number other camp participants. "I think one of the things he was most looking forward to was working out with the top quarterbacks in the nation and getting to know them better," Mr. Nichol said. "I've seen him making a lot of friends and enjoying the opportunity he has this week."
After the Nichols are finished with the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp, they are headed to Las Vegas for a couple of days of rest and relaxation as a family. Gary and Keith Nichol arrived in California ahead of Keith Nichol's younger brother Kyle and mother Patrice.
Kyle Nichol wanted to watch his big brother's entire Elite 11 performance, but he missed the first two sessions because he opted to take part in a voluntary passing camp with his Lowell teammates at DeWitt on Monday. The decision was a difficult one for the outstanding sophomore quarterback, but one he made on his own for the sake of his high school teammates.
Stay tuned to Spartanmag.com for the latest news on Keith Nichol from the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp.