Ole Miss DE signee Robert Nkemdiche
In a lot of ways, the 2013 recruiting season was very similar to the 2011 season.
It featured a can't-miss stud at defensive end as the nation's consensus top prospect, a front-runner that wasn't exactly known for being a recruiting juggernaut and a statement made to the rest of the college football world that the SEC isn't just "Alabama, LSU and everybody else."
Right now, of course, the answer is Clowney.
Two years in a college strength-and-conditioning program and work against the top college football players in the country will do that to you.
But coming out of high school, you could make the argument that Nkemdiche is certainly more polished than Clowney was.
Like Clowney, Nkemdiche has a quick first step. But the future Ole Miss Rebel is much more adept at using the swim move, recognizing what's going on in front of him, getting off of blocks and making tackles.
Nkemdiche has refined his skills to a point where he won't need much work with defensive line coach Chris Kiffin once he sets foot on campus in Oxford.
That wasn't the case for Clowney.
When he signed with South Carolina, his athleticism was widely known, but it took a full season of work for Clowney to become comfortable with what it takes to be a star defensive end in the SEC.
Devin Taylor, who started opposite Clowney at defensive end, said last spring that Clowney relied heavily on pure athleticism during his freshman year in 2011 (via Charleston, S.C. Post and Courier):
“I think he used more so just his talent to work off, last year versus this year, where he’s actually listening to different things to become a better player.”
Boy, did he.
In his sophomore season, it all came together for Clowney. He set the South Carolina single-season record for sacks with 13, finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting and produced the highlight of the year in the Outback Bowl when he destroyed Michigan running back Vincent Smith, forcing a fumble and recovering it with one hand.
Sophomore slump? What sophomore slump?
Who will have the better SEC career?
Is Robert Nkemdiche the next "Jadeveon Clowney?" Of course not.
While they play the same positions, they're two different players—both of whom are extremely talented and deserve to write their own legacies.
But if you're talking about the more polished defensive end coming out of high school, Robert Nkemdiche certainly has the edge on Jadeveon Clowney.
Whether he can produce at the level Clowney has during his first two years in the SEC is an entirely different question, though.