Nkemdiche picks Clemson
Nkemdiche is ESPN 150's top defensive end recruit of 2013
Edward Aschoff, ESPN.com
The nation's top prospect in the 2013 recruiting class is off the board -- for now.
On Thursday, Loganville, Ga./Grayson defensive end Robert Nkemdiche threw a wrench in a handful of SEC schools' recruiting plans when he verbally committed to Clemson.
Nkemdiche, who tops this year's ESPN 150 list and has been this year's most coveted recruiting prize, spurned Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss for Clemson after developing a solid relationship with new Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables and the rest of the Tigers' staff.
It also helped Clemson that Grayson teammates Wayne Gallman and David Kamara were already committed to the Tigers. All three visited Clemson Wednesday, with Kamara making his decision during the first night on campus.
Under the watch of Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, the Tigers' staff has made it a habit of frustrating SEC schools in recruiting with recent gets like wide receiver Sammy Watkins, running back Mike Bellamy and linebackers Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward. No one should be shocked by Clemson's ability to gain a pledge from the nation's top recruit. It surely surprised most Thursday, but Swinney and his staff have showed that they can hang with the big SEC dogs when it comes to recruiting.
But that doesn't mean this one is over. In fact, it's probably far from it. Nkemdiche the top player in the recruiting world and SEC schools still want him pretty badly. SEC coaches have a hard time backing off in recruiting.
LSU received some interest from Nkemdiche, and he went as far as to leave his Atlanta comfort zone to visit those other Tigers down in Baton Rouge. David Helman of ESPN.com's GeauxTigerNation writes that LSU will likely now turn specifically to ends Tim Williams (Baton Rouge, La./LSU Laboratory) and Kendell Beckwith (Jackson, La./East Feliciana), but don't expect Les Miles and his crew to totally back off when it comes to Nkemdiche.
Alabama was certainly in the running and some thought Nick Saban was going to grab the nation's top two prospects with Auburn, Ala., linebacker Reuben Foster already in hand. But the Tide staff will have to turn elsewhere for the moment. Keep an eye on Hope Mills, N.C., ESPN 150 defensive lineman Greg Gilmore, who is expected to visit Alabama on Saturday and plans to compete in the Tide’s OL/DL camp. But as Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com's TideNation writes, Alabama won't stop pursuing Nkemdiche.
Georgia let this year's top recruiting prize leave its own backyard, but Kipp Adams of ESPN.com's DawgNation writes that this might actually be a good thing for the Bulldogs' staff. Georgia can now focus on other top defensive ends and also doesn't have to worry (for now) about playing in the regular season against Nkemdiche, who is coming off of back-to-back 18-sack seasons, Adams wrote.
Then there's Ole Miss. Despite Ole Miss' glaring struggles the past two years, the Rebels' staff had felt pretty good about its chances with the nation's top recruit. Nkemdiche's brother, Denzel, is a redshirt freshman linebacker at Ole Miss and new coach Hugh Freeze had worked tirelessly in his recruitment of Nkemdiche. Ole Miss is the obvious underdog, but you can't count the Rebels out in this race.
Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin tweeted as much just before Nkemdiche's announcement went public.
"It's a marathon not a sprint! A long way to go till signing day! #wintheday," Kiffin tweeted.
Clemson and its supporters should feel ecstatic about Nkemdiche's commitment, but they should also expect some drama out of this one with SEC schools still lurking.
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