Robert Nkemdiche: Last defense of No. 1 ranking

Robert Nkemdiche (No. 1 jersey) blows by another offensive lineman at a national all-star game. Will No. 1 keep the No. 1 ranking after this week? We'll find out in another week or so, but probably (Photo courtesy of Chris Hays/Orlando Sentinel)

Robert Nkemdiche (No. 1 jersey) blows by another offensive lineman at a national all-star game. Will No. 1 keep the No. 1 ranking after this week? We'll find out in another week or so, but probably (Photo courtesy of Chris Hays/Orlando Sentinel)

LAKE BEUNA VISTA, FLA. — Robert Nkemdiche is already ranked as the nation’s No. 1 overall college football prospect.

This week, if it was possible for the defensive end from Grayson High School to soar any higher in everybody’s minds, Nkemdiche might’ve done it.

The 6-foot-6, 285-pounder won over his teammates, his coaches and the recruiting media with his athletic skills and friendly personality leading up to the Under Armour All-America game at 5 p.m. Friday. The ESPN-televised all-star game features 90 of the nation’s top high school players.

“God is very good, and it’s all God making it happen,” said Nkemdiche, who is favoring Ole Miss, where his older brother plays linebacker.

Despite Nkemdiche’s longtime stranglehold on the top spot, there was a lot of speculation on whether or not he could keep it entering the all-star week.

As a senior at Grayson, Nkemdiche didn’t put up the same flashy statistics he did as a junior. Some of that had to do with being blocked by two or three defenders on many plays, along with adjusting to added weight and some nagging injuries.

This week in the all-star practices, Nkemdiche also faced some stiff challenges from other elite prospects from across the country, including two from Georgia.

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While the final rankings by ESPN, Scout, Rivals and 247sports are yet to determined and won’t come out for another week or so, Nkemdiche turned in an award-winning bid to remain as the consensus No. 1.

Robert Nkemdiche

Nkemdiche has handled everything "beautifully," according to one recruiting analyst (Chris Hays/Orlando Sentinel)

“Nkemdiche definitely didn’t disappoint,” Scout’s Chad Simmons said. “Anytime a kid comes in with an X on his chest and the No. 1 national ranking across the board, you’re going to have a lot of eyes on him and a lot of expectations. I think he met every one of them, and maybe one-upped with some people.

“He really had a good week before he got banged up (with a groin injury). He was pretty dominant as a defensive lineman. He played some defensive end, some defensive tackle, and he was really effective at both positions … just the raw strength of the kid, his quickness off the ball, he’s so athletic. Robert overpowered people and he outplayed people. He’s a kid that definitely did not hurt his ranking in any way. He may have helped it a little bit.”

Gerry Hamilton, recruiting analyst for 247sports, was also impressed:

“There’s a lot of pressure that comes with being the No. 1 prospect, and Robert has handled it beautifully. First, from a media perspective, he’s had a ton of interview requests and everything thrown his way, and he’s handled it. Secondly, from a player’s perspective, I think he’s dominated three days of practices. He lined up outside at end, rolled inside to tackle, and he’s dominated nearly every one-on-one rep. He’s dominated team.

“I don’t think he’s left much doubt that he’s the No. 1 prospect in this class. You couldn’t ask for a guy in his position to put out more effort. He’s got a non-stop motor, he has taken on all comers, and he’s dominated. I couldn’t be more impressed with what he has done this week.”

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Holding onto the No. 1 ranking is a priority. With Grayson being upset early in the state playoffs, Nkemdiche had more than a month to rest his body and also train for the defense of his ranking like a championship boxer would before a title defense.

“It’s important; I’ve been No. 1 forever, and I feel like it’s my spot because I’ve worked so hard for it,” he said. “I work hard every day, and I feel like it’s me. People know me as ‘Robert, the No. 1 player in the nation.’ That’s what I came here to do this week, to keep it.

A top challenger for the No. 1 ranking is another Georgia prospect, Milton DE Carl Lawson, who has also been stellar at al-star practices (AJC)

A top challenger for the No. 1 ranking is another Georgia prospect, Milton DE Carl Lawson, who has also been stellar at al-star practices (AJC)

“I don’t think I’m going to lose it. But if I did, I could say that I left everything I had out there, because I worked as hard as I could.”

Two of Nkemdiche’s biggest challengers are also from Georgia, Milton defensive end Carl Lawson (ranked No. 2 overall by ESPN) and Dooly County defensive tackle Montravius Adams (ranked No. 2 by 247Sports). Lawson has also shined this week, while Adams was sidelined with an injury.

“Look, as far as rankings go, I don’t really care,” Lawson said. “For me, I feel like I know my own self, that I am the best player. As far as how they do the rankings, I feel they go off (projections), so I know I am the best player. As far as the chase for No. 1, I just feel like there are a lot of politics in it.”

Said Adams, “The only way I can get No. 1 right now is if they look at my high school film because I haven’t been able to do much this week.”

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Unlike some of the other high-profile prospects at the Florida all-star game, Nkemdiche doesn’t act like a prima donna or carry the “I’m better than you” attitude. He has been very social and interactive with the other players, who always quickly gravitate toward Nkemdiche at this week’s team events.

Nkemdiche also doesn’t act like he already knows everything there is to know about football. One guy he quickly won over was Herm Edwards, the former NFL coach who is his all-star coach this week.

“Robert is just so powerful. He plays with his legs. He has tremendous leverage. He comes off the edge, and he can go inside. He uses his hands well. He has natural rushing ability. So that’s what makes him unique. He has a body. And he’s going to get bigger. When he gets into a university weight program, this guy is going to be a giant.

“He has a body similar to Julius Peppers. When you look at him, he is kind of angular but he’s got a powerful girth. Because you play football with your legs, you’ve got to have some potatoes in your sack. He’s got potatoes in his sack. He’s (powerful).

“I’ve been impressed from the first day I met the kid. We had a pass rush deal, and he walks up to me and says ‘Coach’ and started asking questions. Right there, it told me this guy has got an upside.”

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14 comments Add your comment

Vampire Bill

January 4th, 2013
10:23 am

More interested in Lawson and Adams. Be great if the dawgs get one or both !

DawginLex

January 4th, 2013
10:28 am

Robert, go play with your brother at Ole Miss. Nothing like family

Seeing the story on Oregon’s running back coach, I can see why they attract so many great running backs. If I were Kamara, I would give them another serious look given the crowded backfields at Bama and UGA. That story should make anyone who loves college football be proud to have a coach like that involved with mentoring young men.

JB

January 4th, 2013
11:11 am

OK, I always catch grief on here for this, and it’s not a personal slam to Richt, but the Georgia program lets way to many studs out of state. Just look at the talent going else where. Richt has been at Georgia 12 years. He ought to have a system in place to start wooing these future top players in the 10 grade. Start a relationship. Showing up their senior year saying ” me too” is not working. If Richt was getting 8 of the top 10 players in this state every year vs 3 or 4 of them, Dawgs would be in the NC game about every other year……..

JB

January 4th, 2013
11:36 am

Dawgs were told when they got DE Drew, they wouldn’t be able to keep him off the field. With NO depth on D, He has seen little playing time. What does that tell us ? You never know about these kids.

ugab

January 4th, 2013
11:46 am

The dawgs need depth.

7576DAWG

January 4th, 2013
12:23 pm

I still read complaints about Georgia not getting every 4 star and 5 star Recruit out of our state. We only have 25 Scholarships to give every year. FACT: We can’t sign all of the great ones.
McGarity has made a lot of changes since he because AD. Every time a change is made it will take one of two years for that change to show positive results or if it needs tweaking. McGarity hired a new on campus Recruiting Director last year and if you ask me Garner was politely being shown the door because of poor recruiting for Line depth as the Recruiting Coordinator.
When big changes are made it takes awhile to get the results we are after and McGarity has proven that he will not blindly just do thing just to be doing something. He makes slow moves so he will make the right move and won’t have to repeat it again.
McGarity is building a dynasty at Georgia where we just reload every year like he worked under at Florida as Assistant AD. It is obvious that Florida’s past success was more because of people like McGarity, Strong and Mullen than the head coach. Georgia is getting there just be patient.

Son of Bear

January 4th, 2013
12:39 pm

Smart Parents send their kids to Tuscaloosa to play football and learn life.

The Other Kind of Parents send their kids to Clarke County Correctional and State University @ Athens.

Got 15 ?

Ace

January 4th, 2013
1:07 pm

“If you ain’t 1st you are last”

GTBob

January 4th, 2013
1:08 pm

With that degree from Bama…you might get lucky and get a job in a sawmill! Forrest Gump is still the only known football player to graduate from Bama!

Augustabred

January 4th, 2013
1:35 pm

I’ve met the kid a couple of times when he’s been in Augusta for Basketball. I like him. Interacts with everyone and has a great attitude. Good Luck Robert!

Dabo

January 4th, 2013
1:47 pm

Your going to live up to your word aren’t you Robert? We gave a bunch of your teammates who will never see the field a scholly so you would come along for the ride. Do I need to talk to your moma for you?

UGA's BEER MUG

January 4th, 2013
2:35 pm

I wish we could keep all our top recruits in state or at least have the all go to Georgia.

Tampa Gator

January 4th, 2013
2:45 pm

DawginLex…

Great story…….that coach is one loving, inspiring human being. You could just see the massive love and compassion he has for his son…..I wish I were half the person he is. Problem is, it looks like the RB coach will be looking for a new job in college or going with Kelly to the pros to coach.

Tampa Gator

January 4th, 2013
2:51 pm

I read that Robert is now going to take an official to Florida……so Robert, enjoy your Gatorland campus visit….and know the players you meet will enjoy playing aganst you during your 3 years at Ole Miss.

P.S. I saw you on ESPN. You are an impressive young man. Ole Miss is getting a good one on and off the field for sure.