DE Jadeveon Clowney was a wrecking ball during his time with the South Carolina Gamecocks. He was a once-in-a-generation player, and though he turned in a disappointing final season, there is no doubt his talent was worthy of the No. 1 pick he garnered. His time in Columbia won’t soon be forgotten.
Now that he’s in the NFL, there is an opening in the SEC for the title of most dominant pass rusher. There are plenty of options one could look to from Leonard Floyd of the Georgia Bulldogs, to Alvin Dupree of the Kentucky Wildcats, or Carl Lawson of the Auburn Tigers.
However, there is one player who bears a resemblance to Clowney in more ways than one and is likely to take up the mantle, and that player is Robert Nkemdiche of the Ole Miss Rebels.
Nkemdiche, like Clowney, was the nation’s No. 1 recruit coming out of high school. After being courted by every major program across the nation, they both signed with non-traditional power schools, and both are absolute physical freaks with unreal size and speed combinations that can make them almost unblockable.
In his freshman season, Nkemdiche didn’t exactly light the world on fire, managing only two sacks last fall. While Clowney did fare better his first season, he did start his freshman year as defensive player of the year. It was the sophomore year that saw the former Gamecock blow up SEC (and Big Ten) backfields.
Now Nkemdiche enters his sophomore season looking to make a similar leap. He has all the tools to be a dominant force, and now his much-hyped draft class is another year older, which means he should have more experience around him. The arrow is certainly trending up for him, and the Rebels will reap the benefits.
Look for 2014 to be the breakout year for Nkemdiche in Oxford. His experience last year combined with his considerable physical ability will result in a big season for the young defensive end. Don’t be surprised if we are talking about another SEC DE heading towards being the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft once again all through the 2015 season.