Jadeveon Clowney took over our television sets ever since this hit he put on Michigan running back Vincent Smith:
After this hit, Clowney and his legend grew to unprecedented heights. Clowney, who would have been the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, was then questions as to if he would even play his junior season at South Carolina. He eventually came out and said he was playing his junior season and he did not match any of the hype that surrounded him going into the year. He looked sluggish and almost disinterested at times. But because of the physical specimen he was and the potential of what he could be, the Texans still selected him with the first pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. The hype was crazy around Clowney and there was no way he was going to meet it. But in the end, he still got what he wanted: becoming the first pick taken. Clowney was a rock star in college and many think he will be a star at the professional level. His takeover of college football media was something that no one thought would get so big. But going into this year, there may be another young defensive player that may end being as hyped a player as Clowney was in his collegiate career.
Robert Nkemdiche was a stud coming out of Loganville, Georgia’s Grayson High School. The 6’4”, 277 pound monster played running back and defensive end. To give you an idea of how talented Nkemdiche was, he scored 27 touchdowns in two years running the football and he also recorded 41 career sacks for Grayson. But the unique thing about Nkemdiche was he is the last player since Jadeveon Clowney to go wire-to-wire as the concensus number one player in the Rivals.com Top 100. The skills of this young man are undeniable as witnessed in this sample of his high school days:
Imagine seeing a man of his size with that type quickness and speed to run the football and rush the passer. He definitely could have went anywhere he wanted to coming out of high school. But he, like Jadeveon Clowney, took his talents to a place that was not known for high level football at the time. Nkemdiche spurned the likes of Alabama and LSU to take his talents to the University of Mississippi, affectionately called Ole Miss. The pull of playing with his brother, Denzel, was a huge reason in him making his decision to go there and also his reportedly close bond with Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze.
The buzz created by Nkemdiche and the class that Freeze brought in with him squarely put the attention on Oxford, Mississippi for a minute. And expectations were at an all-new level for Ole Miss and Nkemdiche. The hype was high, but the production of his freshman season was not as spectacular as some expected: 2 sacks and 34 total tackles. But what the numbers do not show you is the times Nkemdiche was double-teamed. Being that he was the best athlete on that defensive line, he drew all the attention of opposing offensive lines. The attention he received looked like it wore him down and it seemed like he was still getting adjusted to college football as the season went on. The difference between Nkemdiche’s freshman year in relation to Clowney’s (besides the numbers) is Nkemdiche had no other threats around him and Clowney had better defenders surrounding him. With all that Nkemdiche went through his freshman year, I expect him to make a quantum leap in his numbers. Two sacks will turn into potentially 10 sacks or more this season. And when his numbers climb, the popularity and the media buzz will begin to get bigger and bigger. When that happens, another Jadeveon Clowney-like media storm will be upon us again.
Get ready everyone. Nkemdiche is coming back this year in even better shape and sans the little nicks and things that bothered him his freshman year. I look for this monster to be unleashed and more highlights to be added to his highlight reel.