When DE Robert Nkemdiche chose Ole Miss on Feb. 6, 2013, it was one small step for the nation's top high school prospect and one giant leap for Rebel Nation.
As cliche as it may sound, it's a fact.
Two Players, One Family
The younger Nkemdiche brother's (Robert) decision to join forces in Oxford with his older brother, redshirt sophomore LB Denzel Nkemdiche, will make an impact on Rebel football in 2013 and beyond.
Arriving in Oxford as a relative unknown (except to recruiting gurus familiar with the family name), Denzel has had to earn his stripes from day one.
Redshirted in 2011, the elder Nkemdiche broke out last season with 82 tackles (13 TFL), three interceptions, three sacks and four forced fumbles. In doing so, the passionate leader became the heartbeat of the Rebel team and a fan favorite.
With summer classes having started in Oxford, all-world, "not-so-little" brother Robert has officially made it a family affair at Ole Miss. Seemingly offered scholarships by every program in America, in the end, family was the deciding factor for the 6'5'', 265-pound defensive end described by many as "NFL-ready."
Not only will the brothers play together in the nation's toughest conference, but the defensive duo will actually get to play alongside one another in Rebel defensive coordinator Dave Wommack's landshark defense.
Once Robert begins to feel comfortable in his adjustment from high school to SEC football, the pair will quickly become a force to be reckoned with for opposing offenses. It'll be fun to watch.
Not too far from the start of summer camp, the Rebels' 2013 season is now starting to take focus.
So, what kind of impact will the Nkemdiche brothers actually have on their club this fall?
A big impact, if not a huge one.
First of all, Robert selecting Ole Miss on national signing day has already made an impact for years to come. Not only did his decision help lure fellow 5-star talent to Oxford like OT Laremy Tunsil, S Tony Conner and WR Laquon Treadwell, but it also now allows Ole Miss coaches to forever talk to recruits about how the nation's top overall recruit in 2013 bought into the winning vision of building a championship program at Ole Miss.
Already piecing together a top-15 class for 2014, there's no question of the impact it's already had.
As for media coverage, it'd be interesting to figure out how many dollars worth of advertising the university and football program will receive this fall from Nkemdiche mania. Not only will prospective recruits be exposed to a heavy dose of Nkemdiche on TV this fall, but so too will prospective students (non-football players) across the country figuring out where they wish to attend college.
There's simply no denying the instant impact that the two brothers will have in Oxford.
While the Nkemdiches will undoubtedly make a difference on the field, they'll have the potential to make an immeasurable impact within the Ole Miss and Oxford communities.
With the degree of attention and focus the pair will receive, they've already become role models. It's a huge responsibility, but one which the brothers are likely already aware. It's as much of an opportunity as an expectation.
Rebel Nation Meet Nkemdiche Nation
Shifting towards the gridiron, Denzel has already been tabbed by Phil Steele as an ALL SEC first-team selection for 2013. The 5'11, 203-pound, 2012 first-team Freshman All-American (College Football News, FWAA, Phil Steele and scout.com) will anchor a stout Rebel defense this season.
As well as he played last year, expect the elder Nkemdiche to stand out even more in 2013. After enduring a miserable 2-10 season while redshirting in 2011, he finally got to experience what winning feels like at the college level. It's an addictive feeling, and one that will be in his mind every time he steps on the field.
Alas, younger brother Robert will get his time to shine. In fact, it should happen sooner than later.
Coaches don't recruit the nation's top player to have him sit on the bench. Despite his amazing athletic prowess, the defensive end likely won't step in as a starter from day one. Instead, coaches should be able to slowly mix the youngster into the front-line rotation to help him get accustomed to SEC play.
Exactly how big of an impact the true freshman makes on the field is yet to be determined.
However, he'll be afforded every chance possible to succeed from the first time he puts on pads.
Simply being on the field will garner a great deal of attention from coaches, offensive linemen and blockers, so from that standpoint alone, Nkemdiche will already create chaos for the opposition. Nevertheless, don't be surprised if the Grayson High School (Loganville, Ga.) product receives freshman All-American honors for his physical presence come the end of 2013.
What Dreams May Come
While it's difficult to predict how many wins having the dynamic duo in the lineup will yield for the Rebels, let's just say it's more than it would be without them. That's the simplest way to put it.
As long as the Rebs notch at least six or seven regular-season wins in 2013, with a hope for more and an upset or two along the way, the boys in red and blue will remain a national media presence into bowl season. Obviously, the bigger the bowl, the greater the continued exposure.
This past spring, head coach Hugh Freeze cautioned anyone that would listen to slightly temper expectations for 2013.
As stunning a one-year turnaround as he orchestrated last season, believe it or not, he's still in the infancy of his grand plan. While Rebel players, coaches and fans certainly hope to have a chance in every game this fall, what may lie ahead in 2014 and 2015 are the true "dream" years in Oxford.
Denzel will be a sophomore this year, and Robert will be a freshman. That being the case, Rebel Nation should get to enjoy these brothers for at least three full seasons. In 2015, Denzel would be a senior and Robert would be a junior (potentially able to enter the NFL as an underclassman).
Having solidified ESPN's No. 5 recruiting class in 2013, Ole Miss should find similar success on the recruiting trail in 2014 and 2015. Under the assumption that let's say top-15 classes are signed each of the next two seasons, both 2014 and 2015 should begin with as much anticipation as there was in 2003 when a kid named Eli was leading the offense.
As for the upcoming season, be prepared for a heavy dose of Nkemdiche.
Get your popcorn, sit back and just enjoy the show. It should be a fun ride.
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