Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche are in the perfect positions to anchor the Ole Miss defense and have a huge impact on the SEC West standings this season.
Defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s top prospect, is more polished as a true freshman than Jadeveon Clowney was when he entered the SEC for South Carolina as a true freshman.
Robert is stronger than Clowney was then and has better technique against the run. Clowney still struggles to keep his shoulders down when attacking, allowing for offensive linemen to block him effectively on run plays. With Robert not making this mistake at the line, he should give Clowney some heavy competition at several post-season awards.
As long as the Ole Miss offense moves the ball well, much like it did last year, Robert’s older brother should anchor the rest of the defense, allowing for Robert to dominate the line of scrimmage.
Denzel Nkemdiche originally came to Ole Miss as an undervalued safety that lacked speed. However, Denzel found a home for his skills as a linebacker.
While his speed did not translate to an SEC secondary, it is more than adequate for the linebacker position. While still rather small, just 5’10 and 198 pounds, Denzel showed that he is an exceptional tackler and can operate very well in space. In 2012, he had 82 total tackles, three sacks, 13 tackles-for-loss and forced four fumbles. He has proven himself to be quite a talent, and is more than capable of leading the Rebel defense in 2013.
While Alabama and LSU are expected to have the top two defenses in the SEC West in 2013, Ole Miss has two key pieces that could give these teams some competition in the defensive rankings. In addition, a strong defense is something Ole Miss has been missing for the past several years, and that could be just the thing to take them to the top of the SEC West.
While it is still a long shot that Ole Miss finishes first in the SEC West, the improvements on defense and the unification of the Nkemdiche brothers could carry the Rebels into the top two or three of the division.