Nkemdiche's wild recruitment to conclude on Signing Day
He went wire-to-wire as the nation's top prospect, but Robert Nkemdiche's long road to Signing Day was anything but predictable.
On Wednesday, the top player in the country will receive top billing when he announces his college choice at 7:30 a.m. ET on national television. Nkemdiche's decision will be the first of many over the course of Feb. 6, but it's also the one most likely to have the biggest impact.
If everything plays out as expected, Nkemdiche will select Ole Miss. That's where his mother, Beverly, has wanted him to go all along, and it's where his brother, Denzel, earned All-SEC honors as a freshman linebacker in 2012. With the writing on the wall for an apparent Nkemdiche coup, other touted prospects have lined up to join him in Oxford. The Rebels' 2013 class currently includes five-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, four-star running backs Mark Dodson Jr. and Jordan Wilkins and four-star defensive end Elijah Daniel.
The only other school Nkemdiche is seriously considering is LSU. The Tigers have a winning tradition, an open spot on the depth chart and a history of producing NFL defensive linemen. So why isn't it a closer race?
It's all about family.
Dating back to 2011, the Nkemdiche brothers have made it clear they want to play together. Following Grayson High's 2011 state championship victory, Denzel said it was a "done deal" that the two would play together in college. But by June 2012, everything had changed. Nkemdiche joined Grayson teammates Wayne Gallman and David Kamara as Clemson commits. He openly talked about his plans to play for the Tigers.
In early September, his story began to shift. Beverly told ESPN The Magazine her son had been "pressured" into committing to Clemson and that the decision wasn't final. And as his senior season progressed, it became more and more apparent that it wasn't a matter of if Nkemdiche would decommit from Clemson -- but when. Finally, in mid-November, he reopened his recruitment, naming Clemson, Ole Miss, Alabama and Georgia as schools he would consider.
Following the decommitment, he took multiple unofficial visits to Oxford, Miss., including one with family members, and his mother continued to openly campaign for the Rebels. Nkemdiche's senior season ended in disappointment when his team failed to defend its state championship, and he continued to maintain a low profile. It wasn't until he arrived in Orlando for the Under Armour All-America Game that Nkemdiche started talking -- and by that time he had new schools in the running.
While practicing in Orlando, Nkemdiche made fast friends with several players, including Florida commit Vernon Hargreaves III. The two bonded so quickly that Nkemdiche decided to take his first official visit to Gainesville, Fla.
Despite the trip, the Gators never emerged as a serious threat to land Nkemdiche. And the prized prospect soon took a trip to Ole Miss along with several other big names in one of the most pivotal recruiting weekends for any school this cycle.
As usual, he was quiet afterward, sending out only a few select tweets to let fans know he enjoyed his time in Oxford.
Then came this past weekend's trip to LSU. When Nkemdiche returned home, he tweeted that his decision was "getting hard now." The Tigers apparently made enough of an impression to -- at the very least -- make him weigh his options a little more before Signing Day.
Could he pull a shocker? With the way things have gone the last year, anything is possible. But if Ole Miss can land Nkemdiche, all the drama will have been worth it for Rebels fans.
As for Nkemdiche, it's ultimately his choice -- but making mom happy sure doesn't hurt, either.