College Football Recruiting: How Robert Nkemdiche Flipped Open Pandora’s Box

By Brandon Cavanaugh
Daniel Shirey – US PRESSWIRE

Let’s be honest. The moment that talks of Robert Nkemdiche decommitting from the Clemson Tigers and taking a good, hard look at the Ole Miss Rebels began, it was obvious his commitment wasn’t going to stick.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was left with two options: accept Nkemdiche’s demands of offering his teammates scholarships regardless of if they were deserved, or let one of the nation’s best recruits walk. It was a lose-lose situation for Swinney, but he’s probably glad that the drama’s done with…for now.

As Nkemdiche takes his fourth unofficial visit to Oxford, MS. – likely deciding when to announce he’ll be playing with brother Denzell – the bigger question is how can coaches prevent this from happening in the future? Don’t fool yourself into thinking at least one or two of the biggest recruits of the future won’t at least tease the idea.

College football recruiting has long been a bartering system, even if not intended by the player. Offers are made to their siblings a year prior to gain favor with the family for two prospects down the road all the time. Obviously shadier dealings are rumored to have taken place, but that’s not the issue here.

Nkemdiche had been committed to the Tigers for five months. He professed a love for the school – how fickle love can be.

Until the current NCAA football recruiting system is reformed, expect to see more public bartering between recruits and coaches. This isn’t an issue for a team with 25 scholarships to fill, especially if said team has no issue with oversigning, but those teams on probation (or simply with fewer numbers to fill) are at a severe disadvantage.

Let’s say the Ohio State Buckeyes and Nebraska Cornhuskers are battling over the same dual-threat quarterback, since Taylor Martinez and Braxton Miller are growing up at the same time. Urban Meyer and his staff are fantastic recruiters, but what if the Buckeyes make a promise they can’t keep? Said fictional quarterback could have two buddies he wants on the team with him, and Ohio State may accept his proposal – but if another prospect in an area of severe need comes along, then what?

If they cut bait with the quarterback’s friends, Ohio State’s reputation takes a hit; they likely lose their signal-caller, and Bo Pelini can not only pick up all three, but also use the Buckeyes’ actions against them in the future. That bodes especially well for a staff rich with connections in the state of Ohio.

On the flip side, if the Cornhuskers have 25 open spots and can afford to pitch the above hypothetical scenario happening, it’s a legitimate argument that could sway their target and his buddies into committing without giving Ohio State a second look.

What Nkemdiche is doing may not be looked upon favorably, but the bottom line is that this may very well be the largest amount of leverage he’ll ever have in his life. He may be a bust, he may make it to the NFL and have a career-ending injury in year one or he may be a superstar. Right now, only one thing is certain: he appears worth the gamble, and he’s showing other prospects that if you grade out high enough, you can work the system, too.

Brandon Cavanaugh is a college football columnist for Rant Sports and member of the Football Writers Association of America. Feel free to follow him on Twitter and join in on the conversation.

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