Ole Miss LB Denzel Nkemdiche on UGA: ‘This game is extremely personal’

Ole Miss redshirt freshman linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche of Grayson leads the Rebels in tackles, tackles for loss, forced fumbles and interceptions. (Photo by 247Sports.com)

Ole Miss redshirt freshman linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche of Grayson leads the Rebels in tackles, tackles for loss, forced fumbles and interceptions. (Photo by 247Sports.com)

By MICHAEL CARVELL
AJC Recruiting Reporter

Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche began the season known as the brother of the nation’s No. 1-ranked high school senior, Robert. But he’s quickly making a name for himself in the SEC, becoming a vocal leader and one of the league’s better young players.

Nkemdiche, a Grayson High graduate, feels like he has something to prove when Ole Miss (5-3) goes for the upset against No. 6 Georgia (7-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

“The excitement is unreal. This is like a homecoming for me, and I just can’t explain how excited I am to play between the hedges,” Nkemdiche said. “I’m going to have so many friends and family there. This game is extremely personal.”

At 5 feet 11, 203 pounds, he’s the leading tackler for Ole Miss and will bring a little extra motivation this week because he feels like he could’ve been recruited differently by Georgia when he was at Grayson, which is located 40 miles from Athens. Nkemdiche was a late qualifier as a senior, committing to Ole Miss after an official visit in May, and stayed with the Rebels after last-minute overtures from Georgia.

“Georgia came in with that late (scholarship) offer, but I felt like they had their reasons for doing that,” Nkemdiche said. “I felt like they didn’t want me all the way because of me. I felt like some of it had to do with my brother, Rob.”

Robert is a senior at Grayson and is committed to Clemson, although his mother wants him to sign with Ole Miss so the brothers can play together.

“Every mother would want that,” Beverly Nkemdiche said. “I don’t want a case where they have games in two different states, and I will be running around like a rooster, or not go to one. Every parent would really want that. It’s my wish for it to happen, but I’m not going to put pressure on anybody.”

Denzel, who was unranked by Rivals as a senior, was recruited by former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt to play safety. He redshirted last season and found himself in a new position after the Rebels changed head coaches.

“He was playing one of the safety positions when we got here,” Ole Miss first-year coach Hugh Freeze said. “Well, you look at us and who we are: We’re small, so you better get your best speed on the field in this league. That’s the only way we felt like we could compete. Seeing how fast that Denzel ran around in practice, we felt like we could do something with him at that linebacker spot. It enabled us to get faster guys on the field.”

Nkemdiche was receptive to switching positions because he desperately wanted to get on the field. By halftime of the Ole Miss season opener against Central Arkansas, Freeze was convinced he had a special talent at linebacker, along with something else: Nkemdiche had turned into a vocal leader.

“We’re always challenging guys to lead, and Denzel kind of started at halftime of our first game,” Freeze recalled. “And it’s one thing to be vocal and not back it up on the field. But no one can question how hard he plays, and how much an effort he puts into the practices and games. … And when Denzel speaks up, people tend to listen.”

The rest of the SEC is paying close attention to Nkemdiche now, too. He was selected co-SEC Defensive Player of the Week after posting 11 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and two caused fumbles in a loss to No. 1-ranked Alabama.

“We did not offer his brother (Denzel), but we thought he was a good football player,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said this week. “And I’m not going to get into any current recruits right now. But (Denzel is) certainly playing extremely well.”

Nkemdiche’s high school coach is not surprised about his transformation.

“Absolutely, I saw this coming,” Grayson coach Mickey Conn said. “Denzel is definitely pound-for-pound the hardest hitter that’s ever come through Grayson High School.“Denzel will strike you and he’s got a ton of speed.”

Conn defended Georgia and other schools that didn’t vigorously pursue Denzel from the outset.

“Had he not had those academic issues, there’s no telling who else might’ve thrown an offer out there for him,” Conn said. “. . . They couldn’t take a chance on him early because it really looked like he was going to end up at a junior college or prep school. He just got to working on his test scores, took some extra classes and got his GPA up. He just did what it took.

“That’s just the way that Denzel is. He just finds a way to rise to the occasion, which is exactly what’s doing at Ole Miss.”

Ironically, it was Richt whom Nkemdiche credits with giving him help as a senior when it looked like he might not qualify. Georgia’s coach put in a good word with Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College, where Nkemdiche signed to play football in February 2011. That left him the option of signing with an FBS school if he qualified later in the year, which is what happened.

Both Ole Miss and Georgia were among the first schools notified in May 2011 that Nkemdiche was on the verge of meeting entrance requirements. Ole Miss never discussed his brother with him.

“Ole Miss really wanted me for me, which I really appreciated,” Nkemdiche said. “Georgia offered me when I got back from my official with Ole Miss. By that time, I had already made up my mind up. Once I made that type of decision, I didn’t want to go back on it. It just felt right in Oxford.”

Georgia may not have missed out only on an All-SEC candidate but also on a prime opportunity to recruit Nkemdiche’s highly regarded brother. Denzel repeated this week what he has said all along about the brothers playing together in college.

“I’ve said from Day 1 that Rob is going to be with me, and that’s still how I feel,” Denzel said. “I just have that feeling. He’s my baby brother, you know. I just know how he is, I know how close we are and I just have that feeling.”

Said Robert, “I see where my mother is coming from. She wants to see both of us on the same team, and seeing us do great things together. We’ll see how it all plays out. We’ll see how it goes.”

105 comments Add your comment

Bulldogs for Muschamp Lifetime Contract

November 1st, 2012
12:06 pm

Good, let him run his mouth some more

Print this crap and give it to Shawn Williams

Oakdale Dawg

November 1st, 2012
12:12 pm

This better not be a game. I’m expecting a 2007 like late season run for the Dawgs. Only difference is we have our destiny in our hands. Go Dawgs!

AirDawg

November 1st, 2012
12:16 pm

it was Richt whom Nkemdiche credits with giving him help as a senior.
enough said.wish he had better grades when it counted.

Bulldogs for Muschamp Lifetime Contract

November 1st, 2012
12:19 pm

Georgia may not have missed out only on an All-SEC candidate but also on a prime opportunity to recruit Nkemdiche’s highly regarded brother.

*******************************

Georgia did not miss out on anything since Denzel did not have the grades or scores to get into Georgia

Really?

November 1st, 2012
12:20 pm

So Ole Miss didn’t recruit him because of his brother but UGA did? So that is why Ole Miss is recruiting his brother harder than anyone right now and the only logical reason they are in contention is due to his brother? Man, this kid is easily fooled.

nobody

November 1st, 2012
12:21 pm

5′11″ 203 LB?!?! Yikes.

KBP

November 1st, 2012
12:23 pm

Bulldogs for Muschamp. . . Great post!

KBP

November 1st, 2012
12:31 pm

Robert has dominated mainly because he lines up against kids that are smaller and weaker than he is. No question about his talent but I would love to see him play against some legit 5-star guards and tackles. I want to see how he fights off blockers.

GSP

November 1st, 2012
12:31 pm

That's The Bottom Line

November 1st, 2012
12:32 pm

D Nkemdiche should kick himself for not excelling in the classroom. If R Nkemdiche has made up his mind, I hope UGA is not giving him a free pass to the game this Saturday. I would not waste my resources on this kid. Let the Nkemdiche family pay the full ticket price for his baby brother to see him play. I would run Traps, Counter Traps, Sweeps, and the Power I w/a fullback lead at Denzel all day long for shooting off at the mounth

That's The Bottom Line

November 1st, 2012
12:34 pm

KBP, Robert is going to disappear after he signs with Ole Miss. The Alabama, Texas A&M, etc linemen are going to pound him into submission.

J-Dawg

November 1st, 2012
12:36 pm

Coach Conn- Denzel the “pound for pound” toughest hitter to come out of Grayson, come on Man??

I know the Grayson program and a few names come to mine before him; Joe Champaign. Shawn Green and Terry Williams. Those boys could hit!

his bro or Ray D ?

November 1st, 2012
12:48 pm

We have Ray Drew. Come 2013 and 2014, Drew will be a huge factor on D for UGA.

UGA cannot sign em all. GRADES do mean something at UGA and thus fact is why UGA will usually have to be content with 9-3, 10-2 seasons. Denzel pretty much explained it just that way, by his mention of going juco first or preschool.

UGA is not Duke or Stanford but we are very competitive university to attend. THE HATERS really hate this fact.

Go Dogs!

dmr

November 1st, 2012
12:48 pm

Georgia wanted him. However, he was a late qualifier the year Georgia only had room for about 19 players. Georgia did not have the luxury of waiting until the last minute. That is unlike the class of 2013, where Georgia will sign approx. 32 kids and may even then still be under the scholarship limit because of where they are starting this year. (approx. only 70 – 72 kids on scholarship now).

Cunk Rogers

November 1st, 2012
12:49 pm

That’s The Bottom Line, I disagree with you. I am sure Denzel does kick himself for not having kept up with his grades in HS. It cost him dearly when it came time to deciding on schools. That said, he made his decision and Robert will make his. Never count Richt out when it comes to recruiting a kid and don’t count out the fact we are only 40 miles away from home. Even with all that, Robert will probably go to Ole Miss but that does not mean we give up trying to convince him and his Mom otherwise. Richt may make a great impression on Robert, his Mom and family. Its worth a shot.

Salty Dawg

November 1st, 2012
12:50 pm

Look forward to seeing him confront Gurley with a full head of steam….POW!!

joe jenkins

November 1st, 2012
12:51 pm

Come on Dawgs!!! We need to shut denzel up….and who cares about his brother….he can go some where else!!! I would rather have a player with heart like merrit hall…… come on now dawgs..we got to put it altogether and beat ole miss…..i’m sick and tired of us not playing with any consistenancy…..big john jenkins better hurry up and get back in practice….sore ankle or not….we will not dominate them if he dont play……I want to see us score first and dominate!!! I still don’t think we make the mnc game…because of murray’s turnovers…and we have a mediocre FG kicker…plus the loss of bennett…he was a hardnosed and deceptively fast WR that nobody wanted to guard…he was always open….our bets blocking Wr…I defintley think bennett is better than t.king and brown

Layinlow

November 1st, 2012
12:54 pm

Why is the this game so personal for him? Did he not admit that Richt made a phone call on his behalf in case he couldn’t make it into an FBS school? Richt also made an offer once his grade situation became more clear. Shouldn’t he be saying I appreciate what coach Richt did but ultimately I chose ole miss because I felt it was a better place for me. He acts as if the UGA did something terrible. Good for him that he is playing well but at 5′11″ 203 lbs he would have neer been able to play linebacker in a 3-4 system. And who knows his brother may end up being another ray drew.

The Son

November 1st, 2012
12:56 pm

Ah, yes, I remember my Mother wanted to see me and my brother play for the same college. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a brother and my sister’s time in the 40 was too slow. She wound up playing for Tech.

ARdawg

November 1st, 2012
12:57 pm

A bit testy on the verbiage aren’t we Chip?

BjohnDawg

November 1st, 2012
12:58 pm

so you did not have the grades and then you did and then UGA offered.
your did not have the grades at the time they did not offer, but UGA coaches helped you get an offer from a CC so you could go FBS. UGA did nothing wrong.Looks like Richt and Georgia actually helped you instead.

Ginger

November 1st, 2012
1:00 pm

I followed this story 2 years ago when Denzel qualified….Denzel took the visit to Ole Miss and would not consider visiting Georgia. Coach McClendon was in contact with him according to AJC article and Denzel would not visit–the article that was in AJC end of May 2010 or Beginning of June 2010
It was a quote from Denzel that said “Ole Miss, that’s my school” in that article.

It was not because of Denzel ability as athelete but because of his grades that UGA could not offer him early…He should have been working and studying harder earlier…..Wish that he would have had better grades his Senior year at Grayson and that we could have gotten him. In the game against my Colquitt County Packers–it was Denzel who was making tackles all over the field. Was impressed.

But I understand UGA position about not offering until they knew grades would be ok. Had Denzel really wanted to go to UGA–he could have visited when McClendon called him…But he choose not to..He choose to go to Ole Miss…which is ok…Be happy….But don’t get mad at Georgia…but no one offered Denzel until he had the grades…Ole Miss did not offer until the grades where there….and let’s face it—Ole Miss knew of the potential of Robert too….but they wanted Denzel just like UGA wanted Denzel—UGA would have offered if they did not believe that he would be a good football player….Scholarships are just too valuable.

The Distinguisher

November 1st, 2012
1:01 pm

What’s the difference between personal and extremely personal? Personally speaking this game is extraordinarily personal for me. I believe that’s more personal.

[...] the original: Ole Miss LB Denzel Nkemdiche on UGA: ‘This game is extremely personal’ ← Back to Home Tags: carvell, dawgs, denzel nkemdiche, linebacker, loss, rebels, [...]

Cunk Rogers

November 1st, 2012
1:06 pm

Look at it this way, if Robert is going to go to another SEC school other that UGA, OLE Miss would be one of 2-3 schools I would want him to go to.

ARdawg

November 1st, 2012
1:07 pm

Normally, last year excluded, schollys are a rare hot item and schools won’t and shouldn’t commit to a kid that likely won’t make the grade. Many super athletes go elsewhere for the same reason. It happens at all schools. Pay attention kids, do the work

robodawg

November 1st, 2012
1:15 pm

Late qualifier, late offer from Georgia, which Denzel didn’t give much consideration to. He could’ve been a Dawg if he wanted it. Sounds like he’s trying to manufacture some disrespect for extra motivation.

Holy Guacamole

November 1st, 2012
1:15 pm

Frankly, I got bored with the whole Nkemdiche saga months ago. Make a decision and go somewhere, anywhere.

Something about this story doesn’t seem right to me. Richt helps the kid out who can’t qualify and now the game is “extremely personal” for him? WTF?

Holy Guacamole

November 1st, 2012
1:21 pm

If Denzel was at UGA, he would still be a safety at his size. Shawn needs a back-up anyway. No way he beats out our current LB crop.

Besides, I like Ginger’s story better than Denzel’s story.

flo-ri-duh

November 1st, 2012
1:28 pm

So it is UGA’s fault when Nkemdiche has a problem academically qualifying and he blames UGA? It’s personal? Your mama should have stayed home and made sure you did your studies. Instead she is AWOL in Nigeria.

hershey

November 1st, 2012
1:29 pm

this is at KBP. Robert plays against guys bigger then him every friday 6′ 5′ 300 lb boys and if you can pull up what he did at Nike camp against the top 3 5star O lineman in the country. They play 6A ball in GA. never a easy game

FL./GA. Stillman Dawg.

November 1st, 2012
1:30 pm

Based upon reading his mother and Denzel statements today, …. I wonder if his mother acknowledge the fact Coach Richt help her son get into college. Since she Only like ALABAMA (cant blame her, they do produce and GA disappoints)….But she says Saban’s a nice man and they chat regularly on FACEBOOK,, WOW,,…. Richt you are so far behind the recruit learning curve…Chances are he may end up there. But every program is on the outside looking in with this kid.. Mom has made her case and son will not dissappoint mom. Lastly, HOW MANY GUYS HAVE UGA RECRUITED THAT WERE ON THE BUBLE OF ENTRANCE CLEARANCE (A TON),, SO PUNDNETS WHY NOT WAIT FOR ANOTHER. O I KNOW,, UGA IS SLOW IN ALL ASPECTS OF THE GAME (ON AND OFF THE FIELD).

gafanintn

November 1st, 2012
1:33 pm

this whole family is full of crap…mother…brothers..father…they are all want a bees. I don’t care if any care 100 stars with there name, UGA does not need this drama around. How can Robert be recruited by Clemson, as big of a recruit as he is, and Dabo never spoken to the mother? I just find that whole story and drama a big bunch of BS.

Michael

November 1st, 2012
1:33 pm

MC…why are the other columns on Nkemdiche “Comments Closed”…I bet I can guess.

hershey

November 1st, 2012
1:34 pm

WOW flo-ri-duh I dont think he blames UGA but all these coaches care about is how they can use these boys on the field they never said how can we help with your grades, plus he was balling like that since 10th grade and GA never came knocking and he played on a team that is always nationally ranked

Who gives a damn

November 1st, 2012
1:34 pm

what so much pub on this kid. there is a 50/50 chance he will be a bust anyway. His mom seems to be a total idiot…… Did she get $150K like Cams dad???

Chris Mike

November 1st, 2012
1:38 pm

Are we really commenting on this!

Mike S.

November 1st, 2012
1:38 pm

I just hope UGA wins, even if its by 1 pt. I could care less. As for Denzel, this is just some artificial hype he’s trying to create. If Richt did put in a good word for him, then why the hate and how should his Ole Miss teammates take that? So he would have rather been in a UGA uniform? Then maybe he should have had the grades to begin with. His grades weren’t good enough to reserve a spot for. Like his coach said, who knows what his recruitment would have been like if he had the grades.

Spike

November 1st, 2012
1:39 pm

Bring. It. On.

hershey

November 1st, 2012
1:40 pm

well spoken FLA./GA. STILLMAN DAWG it’s tons of talent in Ga and they never recruit it all but BAMA and AUBURN etc does

kingdaddy

November 1st, 2012
1:45 pm

Run that mouth now, Sunday it might be wired togeather…

Profiler

November 1st, 2012
1:46 pm

Holy G…..ditto

Rob-Sux

November 1st, 2012
1:51 pm

Im so tired of hearing about this kid…..who gives a crap….

kingdaddy

November 1st, 2012
1:54 pm

Màybe you techies should have recruited him. Our walkons are better than him…

OkieDawg

November 1st, 2012
1:55 pm

Denzel made the right decision to go to the Hotty Toddy Gosh Almighty School. He’s playing and that’s good. But at 5′ 11″ and 203, he wouldn’t be playing linebacker at Georgia…No Way.

Bremen Dawg

November 1st, 2012
1:58 pm

Too short to play safety, is too small to play linebacker in the 3-4, why would UGA take a chance if he might not qualify. Would have been a special teams player at UGA.

Bremen Dawg

November 1st, 2012
2:00 pm

Remember 5′11 if football height, so more like 5′9 1/2, 190lbs.

BjohnDawg

November 1st, 2012
2:00 pm

Frankly I am with the gacamole dude. Tired of this whole family and its drama. Coud care less if UGA is in the mix. I cannot ever remember a mother of a recruit getting an article written about her on this recruiting blog. Hey we have not heard from the family pet yet. Can we expect their cat to have an article with a comment on this?

kingdaddy

November 1st, 2012
2:00 pm

I’mo make dis parsonal, an kick they a$$. Ouuuuuuuu, I doubt the Doggies will even show up now. He’s gonna make it parsonal. I sure don’t want to see him beat-up on our Dawgs…

SCDAWG

November 1st, 2012
2:01 pm

Isn’t Tood Gurley 6-1 and 210 pounds? So he should be able to run over this Joker if he lowers his pads and hits him first.