Eyes have been firmly fixed on this Loganville, Ga. native throughout his tenure at Grayson High School. While the attention can largely be attributed to an overall explosion in recruiting coverage, Nkemdiche’s spotlight burns bright for other reasons.
Nkemdiche attained rare designation as a consensus No. 1 overall recruit. Considering how wildly the various recruiting evaluation outlets can differ on prospects, that’s a meaningful label. The last recruit to earn the ranking was also the first. Jadeveon Clowney was one of the most recognizable names in college football by the start of the 2011 season, his first out of high school.
Clowney lived up to his billing, and then some. He will head into the 2013 season as a Heisman Trophy front runner, a virtually unheard of proposition for a defensive end. That Clowney had such profound success, and so immediately as he did at South Carolina only adds to the expectations heaped upon on Nkemdiche.
The similarities between the two are apparent. Both were consensus No. 1 recruits. Each is a defensive end. Though they are much different players, Nkemdiche is going to be measured with Clowney’s freshman campaign as a benchmark.
Clowney registered eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss on a Gamecock defense that ranked No. 11 in points allowed en route to winning SEC Freshman of the Year. Anything less from Nkemdiche is sure to generating disappointment from some.
Transitioning to SEC play might be a genetic Nkemdiche’s brother Denzel made a successful debut at Ole Miss this past season, earning All Freshman SEC honors while leading the Rebels in tackles. Denzel’s outstanding play gives little brother — although younger brother is more accurate — more hype to meet. Denzel was the less recruited of the two, signing at Ole Miss as a safety but converting to linebacker after a redshirt season.
Prevailing logic: if Denzel was that good, imagine how fantastic the brother every pundit agrees is football’s most promising prospect will be?
Indeed, Robert Nkemdiche is going to be measured against the past accomplishments of others. Every scout that projected Nkemdiche the nation’s No. 1 prospect; every coach that recruited him; every fan who has tracked his every move will watch him at the next level and track his progress against the best defensive ends in the history of the college game.
Ready or not college football, here comes Robert Nkemdiche. And ready or not Robert Nkemdiche, college football has been waiting.