The 2014 Ole Miss football season is just around the corner. Now that we have hit the 45 day mark until kickoff, we are going to countdown the most valuable Rebel players this season. Their rankings are based on their positions and how much of an impact they will bring to the table. Today on the countdown is…
DT, Loganville, Ga
Bio: Robert Nkemdiche came to Ole Miss as a member of 2013 signing class. Nkemdiche was the overall No. 1 prospect in the nation when he signed with Ole Miss and was the highest rated player that came to the university since Eli Manning. While in high school, Nkemdiche was named an Under Armour, USA Today, MaxPreps and SuperPrep All-America selection as a senior. He pulled together a massive 41 total sacks in his high school career. As a senior, he recorded 59 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks while helping Grayson win the Region 8-6A championship.
In 2013: Last season, Robert Nkemdiche received first team Freshman All-America honors by Athlon and College Football News, second team Freshman All-America by 247Sports.com, and SEC All-Freshman by league coaches. Nkemdiche played in 11 games with 10 starts (six at defensive end, four at defensive tackle). He missed the LSU and Idaho games due to a hamstring injury after attempting to run down Johnny Manziel in the Texas A&M game. Nkemdiche recorded 34 tackles (25 solo), 2.0 sacks, two pass breakups and three QB hurries on the season. He finished third on the team with 8.0 tackles for a loss, ranking second among SEC freshmen with 0.73 tackles for a loss per game.
The Value: Last season, Robert Nkemdiche was shuffled around defensive line positions, which led to an argument that that was the reason he wasn’t as effective as his potential. During the offseason, it looks as though the coaching staff has made the decision to keep Nkemdiche at his more natural position, defensive tackle. Even though Nkemdiche lost some weight this offseason, he is still listed as 280 pounds. However, it is not his weight that he uses to his advantage. Nkemdiche uses his strength in his arms to get through offensive lineman. Nkemdiche is still just a sophomore, but his expectations are even higher than when he was a freshman. Recently, Robert Nkemdiche had this to say about last season to ESPN’s Ed Aschoff:
“I wanted to make history. We’re going to say we helped bring this program to where it is now. It’ll be like we brought this up. We sat through all the ‘Ole Miss is nothing’ (talk), and we still did what we had to do to bring it up.”
Nkemdiche went on to add this about the upcoming season:
“It’s great that we could trust one another to do something special, and it’s happening right before our eyes. After this huge year we’re going to have, they’re going to know we came for a purpose.”
This offseason, Robert Nkemdiche has had a really successful fall camp. He has stood out and it looks as though he is on the right path to fulfill the high expectations. Robert Nkemdiche had this to say about fall camp to The Clarion Ledger:
“I have had a really good camp. Just focused and bringing it every day, no matter what.”
After witnessing that Robert Nkemdiche has been a struggle to block for the Ole Miss offensive line all fall, Coach Hugh Freeze has become a believer:
“It seems that he is more mature. One of the things we battle in recruiting all across the nation is that the expectations placed on kids like him gives you a bit of a false sense. In his case, he’s so talented it was pretty accurate. But you can start believing some of that too much and focus inward on you too much. He was easy to coach. The guy is such a competitor. But now he’s more understanding the we before me part. I’m proud of his maturity. I still know there are going to be challenges along the way because he’s such a magnet for people. We talk everyday about the challenges he’ll face with the gifts he’s been given.”
Like C.J. Johnson in our previous article, I believe that as long as Robert Nkemdiche can remain healthy this season, and is not moved around a lot, he will have a breakthrough season and live up to all of the hype.