With signing day over for the state’s seniors, the most prolific recruiting sweepstakes that Georgia may ever see has officially kicked off with Robert Nkemdiche.
He’s the 6-foot-5, 270-pound junior DE from Grayson High School who is ranked as the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect for 2013 by several recruiting services — the first Georgia player to ever earn the distinction.
How good is Nkemdiche? He is definitely a better prospect than any of the nearly 200 Georgia seniors that signed last week, and was probably better as a sophomore than any kid that signed last year. His high school coach played on Alabama’s 1992 national championship team that was stocked with future NFL stars and says Robert is more talented. Lowndes coach Randy McPherson pretty much summed it up with this scouting report: “Once-in-a-generation player.”
With the seniors out of the way, the spotlight will now focus on Nkemdiche, if it hadn’t been there already.
“Well, it has been pretty crazy since Robert was a sophomore,” Grayson coach Mickey Conn told the AJC. “I can’t imagine it being crazier than it already has been. So, you know, we’ll be prepared. We might have some touchdown club people out there directing traffic for spring practice if we need to do that.”
Spring practice figures to be a zoo if it’s anything like it has been at the Gwinnett County powerhouse over the last few weeks. Alabama’s Nick Saban, UGA’s Mark Richt, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Tennessee’s Derek Dooley, along with too many assistant coaches to mention, have stopped by Grayson to catch of a glimpse of “the boy who would be king.”
Nkemdiche is already living a fishbowl-like existence. After Grayson games last season, the junior celebrity would stay on the field for 45 minutes or longer for hugs, handshakes, to sign autographs, smile for Facebook photos and do media interviews. His coach is trying to use the unprecedented publicity for the benefit of the overall program.
“This is exciting for Robert but our other kids as well because it gives them an opportunity to showcase their talents to college coaches,” Conn said. “We’ve got a talented bunch. We’re more than Robert Nkemdiche. We’ve got a lot of players. We’ve got 10 back on defense, and every one of them should get an offer because they are all very good.”
Back of Nkemdiche: What’s the latest with colleges? It has roughly been the same 5-6 all along – Alabama, LSU, UGA, Southern Cal, Oregon and Florida. There are never-ending rumors that he committed to Alabama last year and will sign with the Crimson Tide next year. Nkemdiche, who often wears Alabama gear to school, has denied the rumors.
An emerging school with Robert is Ole Miss – and it makes a lot of sense. That’s where his older brother, Denzel Nkemdiche, is a freshman DB after both qualifying and signing late with the Rebels last summer. Denzel has always said has always said that it’s his parents’ wish that the boys played on the same college team. Denzel initially wanted to go to UGA after qualifying but the Bulldogs were too late to get seriously involved.
UGA, located only 40 miles east of Grayson, is making an effort to be a serious contender in the sweepstakes for Nkemdiche. “Mark Richt is doing a great job of recruiting Robert,” Conn said. “He calls me all the time about Robert. He has been here, along with [defensive coordinator] Todd Grantham. Georgia is doing an excellent job recruiting Robert. They are really working hard.”
UGA’s biggest advantage with Nkemdiche is a non-football factor — its proximity to Grayson. It would allow Nkemdiche to both go off to college yet remain close to his strong support group in the Grayson area.
While Alabama appears to be the school to beat, it may be a while before Nkemdiche goes public with any decision. Like many elite prospects, Nkemdiche wants to go through the normal recruiting process and take some recruiting trips after his senior season before picking his destination.
“I think Robert will wait until after his senior season of football,” Conn said. “I think he wants to see what everybody will offer. Right now with recruiting, he’s trying to put it all on the backburner to focus on his academics and preparing for his senior year. He, like the rest of the kids, wants to win another state championship. That’s what Robert is thinking about.”
10 GEORGIA JUNIORS TO WATCH
Note: This is an unofficial list. We’ll have 2013 rankings next month.
IT’S RAINING RECRUITING STORIES
INSTANT AJC RECRUITING CLASSICS
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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