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November 9, 2012

Nkemdiche drama: Now it gets interesting

MORE: Class of 2013 Rivals100

For the past few months, the biggest question surrounding Robert Nkemdiche, the nation's No. 1 player, wasn't if he would decommit from Clemson, but when it would actually happen.

Late Wednesday and into early Thursday that question was answered, with the dynamic defensive end confirming through his coaching staff at Loganville (Ga.) Grayson High that he was no longer sticking with the Tigers. But without actual comments from Nkemdiche, speculation has run wild.

Is it only a matter of time before he commits to join his brother at Ole Miss? Will high school teammates Wayne Gallman and David Kamara, both also Clemson commits, follow his lead and re-open their recruitment? Are other Tigers pledges having second thoughts now that they know Nkemdiche is back on the market?

While all those things are possible, right now we know only one thing for sure: Nkemdiche is now committed to keeping all his options open -- and he's not talking about them publicly.

"Robert does not want to talk about his college decisions until his senior season is complete," Grayson defensive line coach Lenny Gregory said in an email to Rivals.com on Thursday. "Robert will take his five official visits and will make a decision after visiting the five schools he decides to visit."

Nkemdiche's brother Denzel is having a big redshirt freshman season at Ole Miss, and his mother, Beverly, has made no secret of the fact that she wants her sons playing together.

The daughter of a former Nigerian supreme court justice, Beverly won election as a state legislator in her native Nigeria in 2011. She has an office in Awka, the capital of Anambra State, Nigeria, and returns to the Atlanta area three or four times a year to catch up with her family. She and Robert will be in Oxford for the Rebels game against Vanderbilt on Saturday, and her feelings on the matter are widely believed to be the main roadblock between Nkemdiche and Clemson.

Rumors have already surfaced that Nkemdiche will honor those wishes and commit to Ole Miss during the visit -- if he hasn't already. But Denzel tempered expectations via Twitter, saying nothing has been decided as of yet.

[ MORE: Nkemdiche matriarch hopes sons play together ]

While the Nkemdiche family reunites at the Ole Miss-Vandy game, a trio of Grayson players will be taking a trip to Clemson. They're hoping that he's not shutting the door on the Tigers for good.

"Hopefully it will still happen," Kamara told TigerIllustrated.com about the possibility of playing with Nkemdiche at Clemson. "It will probably come down to the last day on signing day."

He added that he and Gallman plan to stick with Clemson regardless of what Nkemdiche decides, a tone echoed by other Clemson commits in the wake of the news.

"I'm still feeling great," Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter wide receiver and Clemson commit Ryan Jenkins said. "I think a lot of guys will stay strong. A lot were committed before Robert, and as long as we still have that coaching staff and the team, it's a place guys want to go and play."

The early leaders for Nkemdiche's official visits include Ole Miss, Clemson, Alabama, LSU and USC, with Oregon and Florida also in the mix.

With his decision to not comment publicly, even after decommitting, it's clear the family pressures as well as the national scrutiny are wearing on Nkemdiche. Jenkins, who considers Nkemdiche a friend, said he feels for him during the process.

"I feel for him because every decision he make, everything he does is national news," he said. "But I know Robert can handle it. He just needs some time."

Unfortunately for Nkemdiche, the pressure is only likely to ratchet up as long as he stays uncommitted. The common line of thinking is that he now plans to wait all the way until Signing Day before making another commitment, leaving nearly three months for new storylines to play out.

With Beverly heading back to Africa after this weekend, and Nkemdiche left to his own accord, he could reverse course again and back track to Clemson; honor his mother's wishes and pledge to Ole Miss; or choose a new path all together.

Either way, one thing is for sure: Everyone will be watching the Nkemdiche drama. And for the school that does eventually land him, it will have been well worth the trouble.




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