Robert Nkemdiche: UGA in the running for the nation’s No-1 ranked football prospect (UPDATED)

Breaking: Recruiting drama! Georgia’s top basketball prospect changes his mind and signs only hours before midnight deadline (click here)

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They aren’t part of his top five, but UGA still has a spot in the sweepstakes for the No. 1-ranked junior in the country, Robert Ndkemiche of Grayson High School.

The 6-foot-5, 270-pound defensive end made a rare unofficial visit last weekend, traveling to UGA with a couple of teammates to watch the Auburn game. The only other trip that Nkemdiche has made this fall was to rumored frontunner Alabama for the LSU game.

Despite the Atlanta suburb of Grayson being located only 35 miles from UGA, the Bulldogs haven’t been able to crack Nkemdiche’s top five, which consists of Alabama, LSU, Florida, Oregon and Southern Cal.

However, his coach told the AJC on Tuesday night to not count the Bulldogs out.

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“I’d put Georgia in the mix; he may decide that’s where he wants to go,” Grayson coach Mickey Conn said. “Georgia is playing really well right now, and they are playing good defense. They are probably going to play in the SEC championship game. Robert hasn’t ruled out Georgia.”

UGA flirted a little bit last spring with his brother Denzel Nkemdiche, the Grayson defensive back who qualified late and ended up signing with Ole Miss. With the younger Nkemdiche, UGA coach Mark Richt is personally handling the recruiting of the 5-star who may be the first No. 1-ranked prospect in the nation produced by Georgia (recruiting rankings weren’t around when Herschel Walker played).

“Georgia loves Robert, and Coach Richt calls about once every other week to check on him with me,” Conn said. “They love him. I mean, they really want him down there.”

Everybody loves Robert. He’s the “boy who would be king.” He has physique like a Greek god, runs like a tank breaking the speed limit, and plays with the tenacity and intensity as if he was starring in an TV episode of “24.”

Recruiting rumors started last year – and continue to this day – that Nkemdiche “secretly committed” to Alabama, but he denies it. Nkemdiche has a top five but not a leader, plans to take five official visits next year, and announce after his senior season.

“He needs to go somewhere where the overall program is disciplined, where they hold their players accountable, and where they have coaches that help their players become the best they can be,” Conn said.

How good is Robert? His coach played football at Alabama with roster full of future NFL players.

“I have never seen a better player, even when I played on the 1992 national championship team with guys like Eric Curry and John Copeland. I think our whole defense from 1992 went to the NFL, and we didn’t have anybody like Robert. They were good. But this kid is special.”

Copeland and Curry were All-America defensive ends from Alabama who were drafted back-to-back at the No. 5 and 6 picks in the first round of the 1993 NFL Draft.

Grayson coach Mickey Conn (left) played football at Alabama and says Grayson DE Robert Nkemdiche (No. 1) is better than anyone on Alabama's 1992 national championship team. Nkemdiche is Georgia's first-ever player to be ranked as the nation's No. 1 overall football prospect (AJC)

Grayson coach Mickey Conn (left) played football at Alabama and says Grayson DE Robert Nkemdiche (No. 1) is better than anyone on Alabama's 1992 national championship team. Nkemdiche is Georgia's first-ever player to be ranked as the nation's No. 1 overall football prospect (AJC)

“Robert is just different. If he takes his shirt off, there’s not one once of fat on him. Those guys were big ole guys. This kid has an ‘eight pack’ for abs. He just doesn’t look like a defensive end is supposed to look. Robert looks like a free safety when you see him. You like, ‘OK, he’s about 230 or 240 pounds. He doesn’t look 270.’ Then you put him on the scales and he’s between 265 and 270.

“He’s much faster than those guys and much more athletic. Now those guys were great players and they may have strengths that Robert doesn’t have. I was a player then, so I don’t know what all of those strengths were. But I just know that Robert is the best-looking athlete I’ve ever been around. He  plays hard on every play.

“He’s not one of those guys you look at and say ‘Well, he’s got potential to be good. He’s got size and speed, and has the potential to be good one day.’ No, this guy is producing now. He’s not that big sloppy guy or big ole guy that people sign because he’s big, and they are going to make him into a football player. No, this guy is already the real deal.”

More on the USA’s No. 1-ranked junior

Grayson DE Robert Nkemdiche is the nation's No. 1-ranked overall prospect for 2013 and made an unofficial visit to UGA last weekend (UGA)

Grayson DE Robert Nkemdiche is the nation's No. 1-ranked overall prospect for 2013 and made an unofficial visit to UGA last weekend (UGA)

What do I think? In 25 years of covering high school football, Nkemdiche is the best I’ve ever seen. The only way I know how to describe Robert is this – it’s like watching Dwight Howard as a sophomore in high school, and not realizing you were watching a future NBA All-Star when he was a sophomore in high school.

He’s the best I’ve ever seen, and you don’t need me, any college scouts, coaches or recruiting analysts to convince you of that. Just go watch him play this year or next and you can figure this one out by yourself. Grayson plays host to Lowndes at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the state playoffs. Gates open at Grayson at 6 p.m. If you’re a college football fan, you might want to check this one out. Lowndes is led by safety-linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons, the No. 1-rated senior prospect in Georgia. Harvey-Clemons lists UGA, Florida and Alabama as his top three, according to Rivals.com’s Keith Niebuhr. Also, the game will be broadcast live on WSB-TV’s digital channel 2.2 and wsbtv.com, and re-broadcast late Friday on regular WSB Ch. 2 at 1:05 a.m.

Does UGA really have a chance? Right now, I believe the rumors about being Alabama’s to lose. But as we see all the time in recruiting, circumstances change. My gut instinct tells me UGA has two main things working in its favor among Robert’s elite list of schools: (1) A former NFL assistant who is defensive coordinator and can talk about and teach what it takes to make it to the NFL because he has been there. Then again, his top five schools have a tidal wave of coaches with NFL experience. (2) Far more importantly working in Georgia’s favor is its close proximity to Robert’s hometown of Grayson, which would allow Robert to be near his strong support system of family, friends and coaches. That’s a pretty big deal. They would be far enough away for Robert to experience the college life but close enough to help out with anything on a moment’s notice, if needed. As long as Robert keeps walking on the right path, barring an unforeseen injury, he’s a lock for the NFL. And I’ve never said that about any kid in 25 years while he was still in high school, and will probably never again. He’s just that gifted.

We’ll talk more about Nkemdiche in Friday’s Recruiting Blog, but I did want to address one more subject: What about Robert’s personality and character? How on Earth does he stay grounded after being the ranked as the No. 1 high junior in the USA? We asked his coach.

Grayson DE Robert Nkemdiche (No. 90)

Grayson DE Robert Nkemdiche (No. 90)

“Robert is a team player. I asked him the other day. Where are you thinking about going for college? He said ‘Coach, I don’t care about that. I want to win a state championship. That’s what I’m focused on.’ That’s the kind of kid he is. We don’t have to worry about him going to all these different places every weekend, or dressing a different way to get attention – although he did bleach his hair for the  playoffs, and a lot of our players did that for fun. We don’t have to worry about Robert being too much of a prima donna. Not that he’s above it. He’s a kid, and he loves attention like anybody else. He’s not the doldrums. He’s a fun kid. He’s fun to be around as a person. He’s fun in the locker room. We’ve been talking about this recruiting stuff since he has been in the ninth grade. We knew when he was in the eighth grade that he was going to be special, and we’ve kind of been prepping and getting him ready for it. Who would’ve thought he would be the No. 1 player in the whole country? But it is what it is. And we’re extremely proud of him and we want to celebrate it with him. Another good thing is his teammates have not gotten jealous of him [because of the No. 1 ranking]. They celebrate with him. They are happy to have him on the team. That’s was the biggest thing I worried about. I was afraid there might be friction among other players being jealous. That hasn’t been the case. It has truly opened up for his teammates to have opportunities to be seen by colleges as well. I am proud the way they have handled that. I can see where that could send them the wrong message and they’ve been good about that.”

More on Nkemdiche on Friday.

  • One of Georgia’s top uncommitted seniors, Milton defensive lineman Josh Manley, said his top four are Georgia Tech, Purdue, Syracuse, and Louisville. Manley will take an official visit to Syracuse on Dec. 9, and is in process of setting up a recruiting trip to Purdue.
  • Stephenson? Buford High School now has six players committed to D1 schools after LB Nathan Staub picked North Carolina (click on story link)
  • Basketball: Wednesday is the final day of basketball’s early signing period, and the state’s top two prospects — Tony Parker and Shaq Goodwin — are unlikely to sign. Both are ranked among the nation’s top 25 overall players and will wait until the April period (click on story link)

– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog

Got an item? mcarvell@ajc.com

Got an item? mcarvell@ajc.com

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302 comments Add your comment

Tater Tot

November 16th, 2011
2:32 am

Dawg Fan

November 16th, 2011
3:19 am

Hey Robert, I hope to see you wearing the Red & Black and playing between the hedges in a couple of years.

CTG is the real deal and knows how to prepare you for the Pros.

clay

November 16th, 2011
3:41 am

His coach played at Ala. Come on guys you know where he is going to go. No chance for anyone else. Kind of reminds me of that movie “The Blind Side.” You know Alabama is being pushed by his coach. Just like they did with that kid pushing him to Ole Miss

Malcolm Mitchell hurt again

November 16th, 2011
3:50 am

Alabama has dominated the state of Georgia in recruiting this year, and the Crimson Tide will do it EVEN BETTER next year. The top two juniors in the country, both from GA, are BAMA BOUND! Reuben Foster has publicly committed and Nkemdiche has privately committed! Thanks Mickey. See you at the Alumni Dinner. Roll TIDE!

Al B

November 16th, 2011
4:35 am

Maybe Coach Richt can sing him a song?

59bulldawg

November 16th, 2011
4:41 am

Coach Conn seems like the kind of coach for whom any father would like to have his son play. Would love to have this young man come to Athens.

NewnanRxDawg

November 16th, 2011
4:47 am

As a Grayson Alum, I visit to watch at least 2 games a year. This kid is THE REAL DEAL. Sometimes he doesn’t look like he’s moving that fast, then he just runs down RB’s on toss sweeps and WR’s on screens. He’s head and shoulders taller than anyone else (on the other team usually- Grayson’s has some really big athletes now) and he blows down double teams and oh yea he also falls forward for 5 yards whenever grayson needs to convert 3rd or 4th & short.

BLACKOUT HA

November 16th, 2011
4:54 am

If Robert’s coach wants him to go to a “disciplined” program, then stay away from UGA. That program is out of control. The entire offensive backfield hits bongs rather than holes. You’ve got an defensive coordinator who starts fights with a girls school (Vandy) and makes mean gestures to kickers. Meanwhile, Saint Richt looks the other way.

Nkemdiche to Alabama! Coach Saban runs a tight ship.

Army Dawg

November 16th, 2011
5:04 am

Would love to see him in Athens but I will not get my hopes up for him, I think he goes to Bama. If per chance Saban or Smart are gone, maybe we get him. I would really like to see Josh Harvey-Clemons in Athens. Any body have any idea where Clemons is leaning?

Thomas Brown

November 16th, 2011
5:28 am

Ranking this morning AP Poll Top 25 :
Teams we’d have wins over this season :

1.UNRANKED Coastal Carolina
2.UNRANKED Ole Miss
3.UNRANKED Missy State
4.UNRANKED Tennessee
5.UNRANKED Vanderbilt
6.UNRANKED Florida
7.UNRANKED New Mexico State
8.UNRANKED Auburn
9.UNRANKED Kentucky
10.UNRANKED Georgia tek
11.UNRANKED bowl opponent
NONE will end up ranked in the AP Poll Top 25.

tony

November 16th, 2011
6:01 am

SC kept the #1 player(Jadeveon Clowney) in the nation from leaving their state so lets hope Ga can do the same.

Coach Grantham: “And I like to be aggressive on defense, like to attack, like to be relentless and … basically intimidate and dominate the opponent. I knew you could recruit those kind of players here. Some places you can’t do that. … Because I had evaluated them, I knew the kind of players who were coming into the [NFL] from Georgia, not only from [UGA] but from the state. I knew if you could get those guys to come here, then you could play that style.”

I think coach Grantham is the kind of coach Robert Ndkemiche would like to play for. His total defense went from 38th(under Willie Martinez) to 23rd nationally in his 1st season. This season his total defense rank 4th nationally. I think he will have the #1 defense in the nation in the near future.

Truth Seeker

November 16th, 2011
6:05 am

Do a story about SOME high schools recruit? How is it that a few small schools can have D-1 playerS year after year???

tenn.DAWG

November 16th, 2011
6:05 am

Sounds like UGA would be a perfect fit with CTG,not too far from home,and a chance to be an instate hero.I know he’s got a bammer coach pushing,but I hope he shows some “Georgia Pride”.

mike L.

November 16th, 2011
6:17 am

Looks at the trend of the season and all the young players that are contributing to the success. UGA will play in the next 3 SEC championship games and Robert would contribute immediately. I only saw him play once, but he’s special. Be a hero on the local team or another face in the crowd at Bama. It does not matter what you accomplishh at Bama. The press give Saban all the credit. Even though he had led Bama to only one SEC title.

Red Elephant101

November 16th, 2011
6:20 am

Kirby Raid!!!

What a great farm system, we have the Great UGA player/Coach at ‘Bama and our player/Coaches over here feeding the beast!

Destin Dawg

November 16th, 2011
6:30 am

Parade magazine says ” UGA #2 large State University education.. plus Big Time sports ” in a great college town… Athens, Ga.. Go Dawgs !!

Old Dawg

November 16th, 2011
6:33 am

kids that stay in State… close to support groups… friends and family… do better in school and life after sports…

Destin Dawg

November 16th, 2011
6:35 am

Robert, come to UGA and get coached up by Todd Grantham… watch us win the SEC this year !!

brick

November 16th, 2011
6:38 am

If Coach Conn is so supportive of Alabama and pushing kids to Alabama, then he needs to stop taking the state of Georgia’s tax dollars and get a job in Alabama. Of course that won’t happen because the state of Alabama is about 30 years behind Georgia in teacher salary and benifits.

Lilburndawg

November 16th, 2011
6:38 am

Grayson is DAWG territory. With all the UGA fans and boosters around that area there is no way he leaves the state. He will be a Dawg before all is said and done. Book it.

Junk Yard Dawg

November 16th, 2011
6:39 am

Mark Richt is 2 for 3 vs. Saban and we get to play them next year.. Go Dawgs !!

Bulldog Proud

November 16th, 2011
6:45 am

Come to Athens young man, stay close to your support group and help lead the Dogs back to the top.

Paddy

November 16th, 2011
6:52 am

Junk Yard Dawg……….Is next years SEC schedule out now? Must have missed it. Where did you see it.

Bryan

November 16th, 2011
7:04 am

What are this kids stats for the season?? How can you leave that info out.

trupert

November 16th, 2011
7:05 am

“He ( Ndkemiche ) needs to go somewhere where the overall program is disciplined, where they hold their players accountable, and where they have coaches that help their players become the best they can be,” Conn said.

That should rule Alabama out right from the start. UGA is the SEC’s clear leader when it comes to discipline and holding players accountable.

Go to Alabama if you want to ‘’stay out of trouble” because like Auburn, they do a great job of sweeping things under rug. Go to UGA if you want to become the best man and player you can be. I see UGA closing the gap.

It’s great to be a UGA bulldog!!!

FLA DAWG

November 16th, 2011
7:05 am

Now here’s a young man who could immediately step in and make an impact while learning NFL style Defense under Grantham.

I hope he considers UGA more seriously.

It would be a win – win / UGA and Ndkemdihe.

Pete

November 16th, 2011
7:07 am

Dawgs have a real shot and any Alabama fan that knows anything about recruiting realizes that Georgia will be in the mix. Grantham is producing quality players and having been in the NFL he can honestly state what the kids need to learn and accomplish to get to the next level.

tony

November 16th, 2011
7:10 am

2012 football schedule – might change to add new members

http://www.sicemdawgs.com/football/sched/fbsch_12.php

Tom Lemming

November 16th, 2011
7:21 am

I think OSaban Bin Lyin’ should focus on a recruiting a placekicker!

FLA DAWG

November 16th, 2011
7:21 am

You’ve switched names and comments. Mine was at 7:07 (under Pete).
You have me (FLA DAWG) at 7:05 with some negative UGA comments.
Please correct & thanks.

FLA DAWG
Class of ‘79

bubba4dawgs

November 16th, 2011
7:21 am

Sounds to me like the Georgia D is disciplined but I wouldn’t bet against Ndkemche’s coach’s influence for Alabama. Sure would be good to have him in Athens!!

FLA DAWG

November 16th, 2011
7:21 am

And you just did it again…………forget it.

coondog

November 16th, 2011
7:22 am

I hope he lands in Athens, but with his coach pushing him to Bama it will be tough.

dawgerbrown

November 16th, 2011
7:25 am

Alabama is so atrractive to these kids, but, if the top athletes in Gerogia would commit to UGA, it would just be a matter of time before the DAWGS would have the same kind of program. That’s can be seen in the impact so many outstanding freshmen have had on this year’s team. Stay in state, stay close to your family and friends. Help make the Georgia program the outstanding program it can be. Grantham will coach him up like an NFL player. Wasn’t long ago Bama had it’s struggles, shopping for the groceries is what it’s all about.

BobDawg

November 16th, 2011
7:25 am

I don’t go nuts over recruiting… Let the kid take his visits and see which school has the most to offer him academically and program wise…. I hope he stays East of the Mississippi, though..

Good Luck to the young man and sounds like he is grounded and will do well wherever he goes…

Brooksdawg

November 16th, 2011
7:25 am

Alabama was so scared of the new Junkyard Defense that they took us off the 2012 schedule—Missouri will take their place! GATA

JB

November 16th, 2011
7:26 am

Bama has not been to the Dome in 2 years. Saban loses 12-13 starters next year and could struggle some, thus 3rd year not in the Dome. LSU and Arkansas will keep Bama humble and at bay for a while. Dawgs have the perfect storm coming. Richt has woken up. Dawgs have 16 starters coming back with Murray starting his third year and will one of the top 3 QB’s in the nation. Tenn,Fla in a mess and we will not lose to Carolina next year. Come on Robert. Get on the train. SEC is peaks and valleys and the Dawgs are coming out of the valley. This Dawg team is young and very talented. We need you man.

WnE

November 16th, 2011
7:27 am

Why isn’t GT and Coach Kung Fu Panda on his list?

Shouldn’t great local players like this want to play for a HC that is obviously a “genius” (at least in his own mind)?

At some point Coach Fish Fry is going to have to realize that part of earning that $2.5 MILLION paycheck is RECRUITING at a high level to match your paycheck that is at a high level ($2.5 on GT’s Athl. budget & 55K Stadium is the same as Nick Saban’s $5.9 Million on Bama’s Athl. Budget & 101K Stadium).

Coach punch-em-in-the-mouth also needs to pay attention to Defense, STs, Passing Game, and off-season conditioning, if Coach “I’m an Offensive Genius” wants to ONLY focus on his Tripl-SLOPtion Offense then we can cut his pay to $500K and make him an OC and bring in someone that WANTS TO DO EVERYTHING required of a HC.

JB

November 16th, 2011
7:32 am

Tech will NEVER get the type players to beat BCS ranked type teams. You need depth, which I’m told the talent really drops off from their starting 22. Yes, they will pound weak ACC sisters all day long. Coach Fish Fry is at .663% winning after 4 years….and that’s about where he will stay. Go Jackets

trupert

November 16th, 2011
7:33 am

I hope next years schedule stays the same. UGA needs another victory in Tuscaloosa.

It’s great to be a UGA bulldog!!!

Tigers1

November 16th, 2011
7:44 am

–JB the ga pups have pounded some real power houses this year, that will attract talent

Proud-Dawg

November 16th, 2011
7:45 am

Guys, his coach will NOT let him go to UGA. The guy is a Bama homer and will push Robert to Bammer until the very end. It’s fun to talk about, but our chances of pulling him are 1%. Looks like we need to start a movement ‘Occupy Grayson’

jerry

November 16th, 2011
7:49 am

Did it not occur to Mr. Carvill to ask the coach if the kid had ever told him why UGA was not in his top 5?

Jason in Gainesville

November 16th, 2011
7:51 am

Thomas Brown, Those teams are currently unranked because UGA, along with other teams, beat them. The schedules were set up before beginning of the season…you remember, when AU was ranked #1, Miss State was 20, UF was 22, etc, etc, etc. What is your point?

RNB

November 16th, 2011
7:58 am

Alot can happen in a year. Kirby Smart will be leaving and Saban is not far off. I give Saban two more years max. Rumor is he wants to try his hand in the NFL one more time before retirement. He is waiting in the right opportunity. Dont rule out how due to how close his family will be to Athens.

David in Lawrenceville

November 16th, 2011
8:03 am

He does look good, but I was at the Dacula game, and that Dacula offensive lineman handled him the entire game!

bucket

November 16th, 2011
8:03 am

Nkemdiche is so talented it doesn’t look like he can mess up wherever he decides to go. Here’s hoping the UGA interest on his part is genuine.

dap01

November 16th, 2011
8:04 am

Robert: Be a home state hero. Don’t be just another one of the oversigned Alabama class. If you get hurt, how do you know that you won’t be one of those players who simply drop of the radar after Saban gives the scholarship to one of the oversigned each year. CMR is a winner, he has integrity and there is Coach Grantham who is the hottest defensive coordinator in the nation.

Go Dawgs!

slydog

November 16th, 2011
8:10 am

So, he is a great high school player. We will what his future looks like.

Go Dogs

November 16th, 2011
8:11 am

Andre Hastings was the #1 high school player in the nation before he signed with Georgia.