Is Top College Football Recruit Robert Nkemdiche Really Worth All the Trouble?

Danny FlynnSenior Analyst IJuly 6, 2012

Where will Clemson coach Dabo Swinney draw the line in the recruitment of Robert Nkemdiche?
Where will Clemson coach Dabo Swinney draw the line in the recruitment of Robert Nkemdiche?Rob Carr/Getty Images

There are a good number of intelligent college football fans out there that have begun to realize just how out of control the recruiting process has gotten in the last few years.

With the recent explosion in popularity of recruiting sites such as Rivals, Scout, Maxpreps and others, interest and coverage surrounding college football recruiting has skyrocketed since the turn of the millennium.

These days, because of all of the publicity they receive, elite college football recruits are built up to basically be football gods before they even arrive on campus. Obviously, when you’re constantly being told how great you are and how great you’re going to be, it can have a major effect on a young teenage athlete’s ego.

When a young recruit is being wooed by many of college football’s powerhouse programs and when he’s being talked about by the recruiting message board crowd as a future superstar, a sense of entitlement can certainly begin to set it in.

A prime example of that is what we could be starting to see with this year’s top-rated recruit, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, who plays for Grayson High School in Loganville, Georgia

Nkemdiche is this year’s “it” recruit. He’s the blue-chip 5-star prospect that every recruitnik has been talking about all spring, and he's the player that every major college has been lining up to get their hands on.

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, South Carolina and USC are just a few of the big-name BCS schools that have filled the high school senior’s mailbox with scholarship offers.

Nkemdiche, however, has seemingly made it clear that he only wants to play for one team, and that’s the Clemson Tigers, who he gave a verbal commitment to back in June.

As we’ve often seen in the past, though, those summer pledges that occur months before National Signing Day are hardly set in stone. Just ask Indiana fans, who at this time last year thought that Gunner Kiel was going to be their quarterback of the future.

Right now, Tigers fans are rejoicing over the idea of adding the 6’5’’, 260-pound physical specimen to a defense which is still trying to get over the embarrassment of giving up 70 points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl in front of a national audience back in January.

Clearly, Clemson’s defense could use Nkemdiche, especially since this will be the last season for the team’s top current pass-rusher Malliciah Goodman.

After reading the coveted recruit’s comments in an interview published this morning in the Atlanta Journal Constitution by Michael Carvell, you have to wonder, though, if Nkemdiche is really worth all of the hassle he’s beginning to cause with his demands.

In the article, Nkemdiche talks about how his commitment would be a quote “done deal” if Clemson extends a scholarship offer to his friend and high school teammate Ryan Carter.

Carter is not considered to be a top-ranked recruit by any of the major scouting services, but he does currently hold scholarship offers from Arkansas State, East Carolina, Ole Miss, Southern Mississippi and Tulane.

Clemson has already offered scholarships and received commitments from two of Nkemdiche’s Grayson teammates: RB Wayne Gallman and CB David Kamara, and according to the AJC article, QB Nick Schuessler has made the decision to walk-on at Clemson instead of accepting a scholarship from Mississippi State.

On the surface, the idea that Nkemdiche wants to play college ball with his high school friends is a nice one as it shows that they all have a strong bond, but ultimately, it’s one that's misguided and shortsighted.

Young high school students should be choosing the college they want to attend based on what’s best for their own individual futures. They shouldn’t be choosing a school just so they can continue past friendships. Going off to college is about growing as a person and in order to grow, you have to leave the comfortable confines of your hometown and leave the relationships you’ve built in high school behind.

The fact that Nkemdiche apparently will only play for a school if his old teammates are right there alongside him would seem to reveal a bit of a character flaw. It shows a form of insecurity which admittedly is normal for many high school students faced with the proposition of leaving the nest and heading off into the new, strange world of college life.

On the other side of things, you have to look at this from a Clemson perspective as well.

The Tigers aren’t just some mediocre run-of-the-mill struggling college program that has to resort to drastic and desperate measures to land a big recruit. They’re the defending ACC champions, and they’ve had no trouble landing big-name prospects in the past, as evidenced by some of the recent highly-rated classes that coach Dabo Swinney has put together.

Does Swinney really need to bow down to one high school player and let him dictate to him what it’s going to take to receive his services?

You can argue that high school football recruits already hold too much power in the current process. Letting them have the authority to pick and choose which of their friends gets a scholarship is going to set a scary precedent for future.

And what kind of example is that going to set for Nkemdiche?

You’re basically telling him that he makes the rules in life and that’s definitely not the type of thought that you want to instill in a young, impressionable teenager.

How about if he does end up having the college career that everyone is expecting and ends up becoming a big pro prospect in three or four years? Is he then going to ask for the same special treatment?

Is his agent going to send out a letter like this?

Dear NFL franchises interested in drafting me, I just wanted to let you know that I will only be signing a contract with a team that also drafts my two best buddies.

Thanks for your cooperation,


Something tells me a demand like that probably won't fly with NFL general managers.

All in all, maybe this is just a reflection of the current state of college football recruiting.

When you see the spectacles on National Signing Day of kids holding elaborate announcement ceremonies and you hear about the type of first-class treatment they receive on official visits—the limos, the hotel suites, the dinners, the cheerleaders screaming their names—it’s easy to see why some of them begin to think that they’re the ones calling the shots.

Maybe it’s time to let these recruits know that offering them a $100,000 scholarship and a chance to showcase their talents on national television every weekend is not something to be taken lightly.

Most regular high school students don’t get offered a full-ride scholarship to a school and then proceed to say, "Well that’s nice, but I’m only accepting that if you hook up my friends too."

Yes, there’s no doubt that signing the No. 1 recruit in the nation definitely helps raise the profile of a program, but there’s never been one player in the history of college football that’s single-handedly won a team a national championship all by himself (OK, maybe Cam Newton, but that's debatable).  

Just a few years ago, Clemson signed the No. 1 recruit of the 2008 class, DE Da’Quan Bowers, and they managed to get one year of great production out of him before he bolted for the NFL. That same season, the Tigers won just six games. You can definitely argue whether or not Bowers was truly worth all of the fanfare surrounding his signing.

Nkemdiche clearly has the talent to be an impact, difference-making defender at the college level, but at what cost?

Depending on the year, a school will normally hand out between 20 and 25 scholarships to a given class. They aren’t just pieces of candy that you go throwing around to everybody. If you tie up three or four scholarships just to land one highly touted player, that could really diminish a recruiting class.

After reading the eye-opening article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution today, something tells me that the recruitment of Robert Nkemdiche has the potential to become a true saga in the coming months.

Let's just say I wouldn't be surprised if Nkemdiche is eventually wearing an Ole Miss Rebel hat on National Signing Day.