National signing day was almost four months ago, but that doesn’t mean recruiting for college football is necessarily done for the Class of 2011.
Grayson’s Denzel Nkemdiche is living proof as he gave his verbal commitment to attend the University of Mississippi late Friday night, and is expected to sign his national letter of intent with the Rebels once he completes final exams this week.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior originally signed with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in February because he was unsure if he would make the required SAT score to qualify him to play Division I football this fall.
However, after retaking the test, confidence grew enough that he would garner a passing score — which was confirmed Monday — that several major colleges came calling.
And Nkemdiche chose Ole Miss after visiting the Oxford, Miss., campus last week.
“Georgia came into the picture late, and so did Miami,” Nkemdiche said. “But Ole Miss felt right.”
Nkemdiche had a strong senior season as an undersized linebacker for Grayson last fall, tying for second on the team with three interceptions, finishing third with 101 combined tackles and assists, and fourth on the team with eight sacks.
He also contributed on offense by running for 192 yards and three touchdowns on just 39 carries — an average of 4.9 yard per carry — in helping the Rams (10-4) advance to the Class AAAAA state semifinals.
However, he is expected to return to his natural position in the secondary once he suits up for the Rebels beginning in the fall.
“I’m so excited. I’m ready to play,” Nkemdiche said. “Linebacker was fun, but I’m ready to play (defensive back) again.”
With the late signing, Nkemdiche will become the second senior among the Rams’ 12-member signing class to wind up at a BCS conference school. Linebacker Michael Peek signed with N.C. State in February.
“The only thing that may have scared off some schools (in the winter) was his grades and test score,” Grayson coach Mickey Conn said of Nkemdiche. “Once he got that (improved), there were still some schools that had scholarships left. ... God’s definitely shown some favor on him. I’m real proud of him.”
Nkemdiche may also pay future dividends for Ole Miss even beyond what he does for the Rebels on the field.
He has been outspoken about hoping his younger brother — defensive end Robert Nkemdiche — will play at the same school he attends.
The 6-5, 260-pounder is being heavily recruited by most major programs in the South after an outstanding sophomore season in which he recorded 58 combined tackles, including a team-high 18 sacks that placed him among Gwinnett County’s leader.
“My mom’s talking to him. It’s what she wants us to do,” Denzel Nkemdiche said of possibly playing college football with his brother. “And I’ll talk to him and take him on his official visit (to Ole Miss) in his senior year.
“We’ll see what happens.”