LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. – There is not a prospect in the 2013 class with more eyes on him on a day-to-day basis than Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson). Not only is the 6-foot-4, 285-pound prospect the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2013 Top247, but is also the consensus (at this time) No. 1 overall prospect in the country and the topic of an ongoing recruitment that has fans of Clemson and Ole Miss on the edge of their seats.
With all of the expectations and continued chaos in recruiting around Nkemdiche, it can prove difficult for an 18-year old to maintain focus on what has gotten him to this point – but not for the grounded Nkemdiche according to his defensive line coach Lanny Gregory.
“Tremendous player that just continues to get better,” Gregory said. “The thing that is most impressive about him is that he plays in the scheme no matter what. He’s a non-selfish player. Teams are double and triple teaming him, they are sliding protection away from him, quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball in less than 2.5 seconds and he has been very patient about it.”
When a player with the talent level of Nkemdiche isn’t putting up the jaw dropping stats he has in other seasons, people start asking questions. Questions of if a prospect has gotten too big, is not as focused as a senior and looking ahead; and a number of other things always seem to creep into discussion. According to Gregory, that is not the case. It’s just the opposite.
“I tell him all the time that the pressure and chaos he is creating is completely different,” he said. “People understand that they can’t block him, they play games and the thing that is so great about Robert is he doesn’t try to do his own thing and continues to buy into what we are doing as a team. Robert is on a unit that is very good with Jack Banda and Zach Barnes and Marquis Motley, and at any point any of those guys can get the job done. We work as a unit everyday in practice on the same stuff. There is nothing we are doing with Robert we haven’t done since he was a freshman. Reacting to blocks, reading his keys, playing aggressive and being consistent.”
Like all prospects no matter the numerical or star rating, one can work to keep ascending and continue the process of maximizing ones talent. In the case of Nkemdiche on the high school level, it’s all about continuing to play with a motor and passion.
“Not so sure at the high school level where his area for improvement truly is because he is so good. We continue to stress to him to keep playing hard and with passion; and right now he is doing that.”
One key part of the equation than makes the Under Armour All-American a potentially special prospect is his versatility combined with a coaches dream physique and athleticism.
“What is so great about him is he could play a three technique, a one technique, he could play a five, he could play a nine; it just doesn’t matter. You see him compared a lot to Clowney. They are different. Clowney can’t play inside over a guard. Robert goes to the next level and they want to bump down to a three technique, and he can play over a guard. Robert plays wherever we ask him to. He’s an ultimate team guy so whoever does get him is getting an ultimate player that is well rounded that can play anywhere on the defensive line,” Gregory said.
On the topic of where Nkemdiche will ultimately play in the future, the interior of a four-man front appears very likely due to what Gregory spoke to, and a body type that will continue to stack muscle mass.
“He’s 285 pounds right now. He’s going to keep getting bigger and stronger. He will be a 305-pound type kid that can run a 4.5 or 4.6 forty. He’s that type of body and that type of athlete that works hard.”
On the recruiting front, Nkemdiche remains committed to Clemson but it’s looking more and more like Ole Miss is ultimately the team to beat. He is scheduled to be in Oxford this weekend with his family to watch his brother play, Ole Miss freshman safety Denzel Nkemdiche, and there is good chance that the Rebels will be even tougher to beat following the weekend’s visit.
Inside Nkemdiche’s recruitment
"When Robert committed to Clemson over the summer, many were shocked because the feeling then had been that Alabama and LSU were the teams to beat. In July, Nkemdiche's recruitment took another sudden turn when he made a surprise visit to Ole Miss. At the time, Robert shrugged it off, saying he was in Oxford simply to spend time with family (his brother plays there). It's important to note, though, that on that trip he did meet with Ole Miss coaches. In the following months, he has been back to Ole Miss multiple times for games and now admits that -- while still committed to Clemson -- he is stuck between the two schools. Ole Miss will have two coaches at his game this Friday, and Robert will return to Oxford on Saturday with his parents. Clemson is still scratching and clawing, but the momentum clearly is with the Rebels."
-- Keith Niebuhr, 247Sports
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