Robert Nkemdiche was the highest rated prospect in Georgia since the start of online recruiting rankings and a consensus No. 1 prospect from wire-to-wire. But none of that will matter today, as the five-star defensive end prepares to enroll at Ole Miss.
"I am really excited about getting up there," Nkemdiche said last week after working out with this brother and Rebels teammate Denzel Nkemdiche.
Denzel’s path to stardom was far different than his brother’s. Unheralded out of high school because of he was a late qualifier and deemed too slow to stay at safety and too small to play linebacker, Denzel redshirted as a freshman. But last year, he thrived as a hybrid linebacker/safety, making 78 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three interceptions, earning AP Second-Team All-SEC honors.
Denzel is preparing his brother, as is Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, who landed Nkemdiche as part of a heralded recruiting class that also included No. 1 offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and No. 1 wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.
"We can probably go to a national championship," Nkemdiche said. "I know that is a big goal but I feel like with our class, we can come in and can help out what I think is a solid defense already and as a really good team overall we can work toward that common goal. I feel if we can come together like people say we can, we are going to be really successful."
For years, Nkemdiche has been compared to another defensive end and No. 1 overall prospect: Jadeveon Clowney. With Clowney widely expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the bar for Nkemdiche has been set astronomically high.
"I feel like we were both good recruits coming out of high school, but this is college so we will have to wait and see what I can do," Nkemdiche said.
Rebels defensive line coach Chris Kiffin, who, along with former secondary coach Wesley McGriff, were the main recruiters of record for Nkemdiche, feels his prized signee has a chance to live up to those lofty recruiting rankings one day.
"What really got me excited about Rob was watching his 1-on-1 pass rush clips from practice at the Under Armour All American game," Kiffin said. "When he could really cut it loose against the other top talent in the nation, he dominated. He used finesse, he used speed and quickness, and he used power. I think if he has the work ethic and motor like I think he does then there's no doubt in my mind he will be a top pick in the NFL draft one day."