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Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Ole Miss lands Robert Nkemdiche

By Kipp Adams

LOGANVILLE, Ga. -- Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in the ESPN 150, kicked off national signing day on Wednesday by announcing his intention to sign with Ole Miss on ESPNU. The Loganville (Ga.) Grayson defensive end chose the Rebels over LSU and Florida.

Nkemdiche marks a signature addition to what is shaping up to be one of the top recruiting classes in the country. He had offers from coast to coast and took official visits to Florida, Ole Miss and LSU before deciding to join his brother Denzel Nkemdiche in Oxford, Miss.

The rumors of Ole Miss landing the five-star prospect began almost two years ago, when the Rebels signed Denzel Nkemdiche in May 2011 after the lightly recruited 5-foot-11, 200-pound defensive back was able to qualify a few months after signing day. At the time, it was believed that Alabama had the best chance to land the younger, more highly regarded Robert Nkemdiche, with Ole Miss considered only a dark-horse possibility due to his brother's enrollment at the school.

Nkemdiche, who originally committed to Clemson in June, watched Ole Miss play Georgia in Athens, Ga., on Nov. 3 and reportedly called Clemson to decommit a day later.

With the family ties pulling Nkemdiche to Oxford, Ole Miss became the consensus leader to land the nation’s top recruit at any moment. But even with recruiter of record Wesley McGriff and defensive line coach Chris Kiffin taking in Grayson games seemingly every week during the fall evaluation period, no such commitment to Ole Miss came, as Nkemdiche decided to focus on his senior season.

As Clemson fell from contention, programs such as LSU and Florida threw their names into the mix. Nkemdiche took official visits to Florida on Jan. 18, Ole Miss on Jan. 25 and LSU on Feb. 2, giving all three trips high marks.

But once it came time to make a decision, it all came back to family, and Ole Miss won out for Nkemdiche.

His addition gives the Rebels 24 commitments for the 2013 class and their first from a five-star recruit. Ole Miss, which has a commitment from the nation’s No. 1 receiver in Laquon Treadwell, is also heavily favored to land No. 1 offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) and has a chance to add ESPN 150 defensive end Chris Jones, ESPN 150 safety Antonio Conner, ESPN 150 offensive lineman Austin Golson and Nkemdiche’s teammate David Kamara.

What is the impact of Robert Nkemdiche’s decision?

Instant Analysis

What it means for Ole Miss: The Rebels won out for the biggest prize of signing day, snagging Nkemdiche and giving Hugh Freeze a program-changing defensive lineman to build his defense around. Robert will join his brother Denzel in Oxford, giving Ole Miss a pair of highly talented brothers to showcase on that side of the ball, and putting the SEC West program on the map as a team to be reckoned with over the next three years.

What it means for Florida, LSU: Both programs had nothing to lose by getting Nkemdiche on campus, and each school already had commitments from a pair of four-star defensive ends. Clemson actually has three four-star commitments at defensive end, but has to wonder what could have been had it been able to retain the No. 1 overall prospect.

Turning point: When Ole Miss signed Denzel Nkemdiche, the Rebels put themselves in position to land Robert. It placed Ole Miss right in front of the five-star defensive lineman, giving Freeze, Kiffin and McGriff ample opportunities to sell Robert on the potential impact he could make in Oxford.

Surprise (scale of 1-5): 5. Look past the fact that Ole Miss had long been considered the leader for Nkemdiche. It is not surprising to see the brothers reunited on the college level. What is mind-boggling is that once news got out in April 2011 that Denzel Nkemdiche would qualify, only Ole Miss came through with a scholarship offer. If Robert Nkemdiche pans out, head coaches nationwide will be second-guessing themselves for not at least checking into it more.

Immediate impact (scale of 1-5): 5. C.J. Johnson and Issac Gross are young standouts who Ole Miss counts on for big things in 2013. But the other two positions could be up for grabs, and Nkemdiche has the scheme versatility and off-the-charts potential to step right in and provide instant contributions as a pass-rusher. Over time, he should develop into an equally strong defender against the run as well.

Twitter reaction

#OleMiss reaction to landing nation's No. 1 player Robert Nkemdiche. #SigningDay…

— RecruitingNation (@RecruitingESPN) February 6, 2013