The Florida Gators have reportedly evened the playing field in the race for No. 1 overall recruit Robert Nkemdiche's commitment.
Ole Miss and LSU have been considered to be the favorites for his commitment ever since Nkemdiche narrowed down his list a few weeks ago, but the Gators came out of nowhere to secure an official visit this past weekend.
Florida is one of the best programs in college football and head coach Will Muschamp is a terrific recruiter (his class is currently ranked No. 1 overall by Rivals.com). Without a doubt, Florida entering this recruiting race is a bad sign for Ole Miss and LSU.
Nkemdiche said (via Kipp Adams of ESPN) that Florida made enough of an impact during the official visit to nullify any advantage Ole Miss or LSU may have had:
Really all schools are even for me right now. No school has been kicked down or anything, but I just have to see the other schools and compare them. Florida, Ole Miss and LSU are all battling for that top spot.
What was once firmly a two-team battle is now a three-team fight, and that goes to show you just how big of an impact this visit to Florida must have had on Nkemdiche.
He went on to talk a bit about the pitch he was getting from other Florida commitments, per Adams:
It was fun hanging out with the other Florida commitments. I met a lot of them during practice for the Under Armour All-America Game, and they all told me good players like to play with other good players, which is true. They were just letting me know we could do great things together at Florida and continue that tradition in Gainesville. I think I could make a big impact at Florida and really help this incoming class a lot.
Nkemdiche does have a visit coming up to Ole Miss this weekend, and despite the obvious push Florida has made, it's still very hard to deny all the advantages the Rebels have. The biggest is undoubtedly the presence of his brother, Denzel, who plays linebacker for Ole Miss. His mother has been very open about wanting the two to play together, too.
Ask 10 people connected with college football recruiting and eight will most likely tell you that Ole Miss should land Nkemdiche, but that number may go down to seven or six in the coming weeks if this visit to Florida has a lasting impact.
Nkemdiche added (via Adams) that he's looking to see if he can bond with the players and coaches at Ole Miss like he did at Florida. He also stated that his dad liked Muschamp a lot. It's rather obvious at this point that the Gators had a fantastic visit with the No. 1 overall recruit.
If anything, we're back to square one with Nkemdiche.
The Rebels still have the family advantage that they've had throughout the whole process, but other programs like LSU and Florida have their own advantages as well.
This is a recruiting race that will most likely come down to the wire.
If Florida can continue to make a strong late push for his commitment, it's hard to deny what the Gators have to offer. LSU is an SEC powerhouse and can offer him the chance to play right away, considering top pass-rushers Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery will be going to the NFL. Meanwhile, there's the family connection to Ole Miss.
All three schools have to be feeling good about their chances, and at this point, it's clearly anybody's race to win.