After a historic 2013 recruiting class executed by Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss Rebels, two of the best defenders in the SEC will now be wearing blue and red with Nkemdiche in bold letters across their backs.
Robert Nkemdiche, the consensus No. 1 overall prospect and 5-star defensive end from Georgia, joined his brother Denzel after committing to the Rebels during Wednesday's 2013 national signing day.
The brothers are set to take Oxford by storm.
Robert headlines a list of big-time recruits that have put Freeze and Ole Miss back on the college football map. Denzel, a converted safety, led the Rebels in tackles in 2012 and made the Freshman All-American team while being one of the main reasons for the late-season surge at the University.
There were some rough moments for Ole Miss in 2012. Those moments include an embarrassing loss to Texas at home, and allowing Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel to engineer a late-game comeback to stun the team in October. All that aside, the team did some good things—things to build on going forward.
Despite a 7-6 season, the Rebels finished strong in 2012 and managed to win the BBVA Compass Bowl over Pittsburgh in convincing fashion.
Now, with a top recruiting class in place, a full season to polish the 4-2-5 base defense that defensive coordinator Dave Wommack installed last year and expectations budding for 2013, there's no reason that the Rebel defense shouldn't improve leaps and bounds from its 46th-place finish in the total defensive rankings of 2012.
There's talent all around on the Ole Miss roster, but it will all start with the Nkemdiche brothers.
As they announced Robert's commitment to Ole Miss on Wednesday, the brothers also announced their intentions to contend for a national championship in the near future. NewsWatch Ole Miss had the report from NSD on Twitter:
NewsWatch Ole Miss @NewsWatch_UM
Denzel Nkemdiche on Robert: "We'll be able to win a national championship together." #NSD2/6/2013, 1:07:47 PM
Based on scouting reports for both players, there's a good chance they can accomplish that as the focal points of an evolving defense.
Robert is a load on the defensive line, blending rare speed and power to be a force in both pass-rushing and run-stopping situations. The DE has drawn comparisons to former No. 1 recruit Jadaveon Clowney, and that comparison was noted in one of Bleacher Report's "Full Ride" scouting reports on the top prospect.
He'll be an immediate starter (as most No. 1 prospects are) and will be expected to anchor a defensive line that needs him on all three downs and distances in 2013.
Denzel, on the other hand, emerged as one of the better defenders in the SEC after his move from safety to hybrid linebacker in the 4-2-5.
The elder Nkemdiche filled up the stat book last season, compiling 82 tackles (team high), 13 TFL, 3.0 sacks, three INTS, five PD and four forced fumbles. Those kind of numbers earned him national recognition, and made his brother notice the kind of program that Ole Miss was running.
Between the two brothers, new commits Tony Conner and Lavon Hooks, and the rest of a returning defense that improved dramatically at the end of the season last year, this Ole Miss football team has a certain buzz about it—and rightly so.
Freeze has made major strides since taking over for Houston Nutt, and he's done so despite being an "offensive" coach at the time of his hiring. It's impressive that he's been able to put together the kind of talent he has on defense, while also pulling in top prospects Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil on the offensive side of the ball.
But make no mistake—the Nkemdiche brothers will be the key to this team. Schematically, they'll have an opportunity to make an impact early on because of the rest of the SEC offenses that Ole Miss will see, and from a leadership perspective, both can attest to what it takes to be a winner.
It's been several years since Ole Miss made the kinds of headlines it has in the past few days.
With the Nkemdiche brothers leading the defensive charge, the Rebels could be making headlines for quite a while.
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