In 2008, the Clemson Tigers acquired a major recruit when they nabbed the nation's top-ranked player in defensive end Da'Quan Bowers. While he started out slow, Bowers was the main force along the defensive line and, had he not had issues with his knee, would have been a first-round pick.
Bowers would also win the Ted Hendricks Award, given to the nation's best defensive end, and the Bronko Nagurski Award for the best defensive player, voted on by the Football Writers of America.
He was selected in the 2011 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Now, the Tigers have landed a verbal commitment from this year's big-time, No. 1 overall player, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche from Loganville, Georgia. He had offers from powerhouse schools like Alabama, the University of Southern California (USC) and LSU, but finally sided with Clemson. However, his commitment appears to be on thin ice, and his decision hasn't been met with approval from his brother, Denzel Nkemdiche, who plays linebacker at Ole Miss.
“I’ve said from Day One that Rob is going to be with me, and that’s still how I feel," Denzel said, according to Michael Carvell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC). “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.”
And to top it all off, Robert Nkemdiche's well-known mother, Beverly Nkemdiche, has made several recent statements disapproving of her son committing to Clemson, stating that it's "out of her way." Mrs. Nkemdiche resides in Nigeria and works in politics as a state legislator.
What took me to Ole Miss was Denzel (Robert’s brother). I haven’t been to any other school. Honestly, if Denzel was not at Ole Miss, I wouldn’t have gone to Ole Miss. My No. 1 team is Alabama. But I don’t have a child in Alabama to take me to Alabama. My son is in Mississippi at Ole Miss. That’s what took me to Mississippi......So I’m not going to travel all over the place just to talk to coaches. No, I won’t. I’m not being cocky or anything. It’s just not in my schedule. I just went to Ole Miss to visit with my son. I had a wonderful opportunity there to talk with the coaches and the academic people, and that’s it.
A common theme remains that both Mrs. Nkemdiche and Robert's brother Denzel want him to play alongside Denzel at Ole Miss. Meanwhile, a couple of Robert's high-school teammates, defensive back David Kamara and running back Wayne Gallman, have both stated they're completely committed to Clemson.
Between the back-and-forth with Mrs. Nkemdiche and this shaky commitment, it is entirely possible that Nkemdiche committed too soon, and that's fine. But despite his No. 1 ranking, is he really worth all this drama?
One player certainly does not make the class. Yes, Nkemdiche has unlimited potential and would be a great addition at defensive end, but Clemson has plenty more pieces to work with in this class. The Tigers retooled their running back corps with Gallman and Tyshon Dye, welcomed quality athletes in tight end/ATH Jordan Leggett and defensive back/wide receiver Ryan Jenkins, and got some key cogs like linebacker Ben Boulware and highly touted in-state receiver Mike Williams.
These recruits haven't made the kind of noise Nkemdiche has made over this. If he wants to decommit, he should. This wouldn't be the first time. Clemson dropped its commitment from running back Marlin Lane after his off-the field issues, and defensive end Jeffery Pagan decommited several weeks after his announcement identifying Clemson as his school of choice.
A recruit of this caliber that has yet to see the field shouldn't allow such uncertainty to weigh heavily on his future teammates and coaches. If a recruit gives a commit, he has the free will to retract that commitment, which doesn't become final until signing day. Or he could have been like a lot of recruits and waited until then to amaze all of college football nation, finally revealing where he'll spend the next three to four years.
As much as his brother and mother have spoken out since he made his verbal "commitment," it seems as though Nkemdiche has been more and more exposed, and there is pressure on him to attend Ole Miss to play alongside his brother.
Losing a recruit like Nkemdiche would be big, but it wouldn't be the end of the 2013 recruiting class. Clemson has a young defensive line already in place and young freshmen—like redshirt Martin Aiken from the 2012 class and Shaq Lawson, who should hopefully be enrolled next semester—will bolster the defensive-end position.
But despite all this, there's only one person who can decide where he wants to play—whether it's for the Clemson Tigers, Ole Miss Rebels or anywhere else—and that's Robert Nkemdiche.