Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Grayson running back and defensive end Robert Nkemdiche has committed to play for Clemson next season.
Talkin' Football: Greatest class ever?
Todd Cline and Will Hammock discuss this year's senior class, including the No. 1 recruit in the country, Grayson's Robert Nkemdiche.
Mark Crews has seen his fair share of talented football players and teams from Gwinnett County.
As he enters his 26th year at Brookwood, including his 11th as head coach, he thinks this year's group of seniors is the best the county has ever seen.
"There are some outstanding players in our county every year, but maybe a little more highly rated kids this year," Crews said. "Robert (Nkemdiche) kind of leads the way with the No. 1 ranking and that kind of stuff."
Grayson's Nkemdiche has been tabbed by recruiting services as the nation's No. 1 college prospect. For a county that has produced a Heisman Trophy winner, Super Bowl champions and a future NFL Hall of Famer, it has never had a No. 1 recruited prospect.
"Obviously, it's a special year with Nkemdiche as the No. 1 prospect in the country," said Chad Simmons, the National Recruiting Analyst for Fox Sports/Scout.com. "Then you have the other guys. It's definitely one of the more special years from top to bottom, but I think this is more at the top."
The talent doesn't stop with Nkemdiche. The county has 16 players committed to Division I schools before the season starts, including 14 to BCS programs.
"The county has been producing kids like that for a long time," Crews said.
True, but not at the caliber of this year's class. Gwinnett may have one of the state's top players at a certain position every few years, but this year they have four.
Norcross running back Alvin Kamara and Mill Creek defensive linemen Kelsey Griffin are still uncommitted, but are also two of the nation's most sought after players. Kamara is rated the No. 1 running back in the state and No. 5 in the country, according to ESPN.com. The county hasn't had a running back that highly touted since Parkview/GAC's Caleb King during the 2006 season.
Griffin is rated the No. 2 defensive tackle in the state and No. 13 in the country. It rivals Buford's Omar Hunter, who was the nation's No. 2 defensive tackle for the 2008 season.
Central Gwinnett's Trey Johnson has been committed to Auburn since his sophomore year. Johnson is the state's No. 1 rated inside linebacker and No. 2 in the country. He joins Buford's Dillon Lee, Peachtree Ridge's Kevin Minter and Brookwood's Rennie Curran who have also been rated the state's top inside linebacker.
"From a cream of the crop standpoint, you take the top 10 from the country and the top 10 from Gwinnett would compare anywhere," Simmons said.
Then of course there's Nkemdiche, who has posted consecutive 18-sack seasons. He's been compared to the NFL's Julius Peppers by high school coaches. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound defensive end had scholarship offers from every major program in the country and chose Clemson.
"You've got guys across the board that are top Division I recruits," Simmons said. "You would have your fair share even if you take out the top guy. You still have a good group. He's kind of the cherry on top. He's the cream of the crop."
It was just 10 years ago that Gwinnett was starting to become a hotbed for football talent. The county had 16 football-playing schools in 2002 (it now has 22) and produced 29 college signees that year. The group included 11 to BCS programs.
Gwinnett County had a record 119 college signees this February, which included 39 to Division I programs and 19 to BCS teams.
The county is on track to easily eclipse all of those numbers with the Class of 2013.
"This county always has a bunch of good players because we have a bunch of good programs that develop good players," Crews said. "There's strong competition among our teams."
Nkemdiche has committed to Clemson along with teammates Wayne Gallman and David Kamara. Grayson's Jack Banda is going to Arizona and Zachary Barnes to Tennessee. The defending state champion Rams have two other players in Ryan Carter and Kasey Gaines with Division I offers.
"The problem is when you have a talented senior group, then everyone else does, too," South Gwinnett head coach John Small said.
The list goes on with Brookwood's Kyrin Priester and Shaun McGee (Georgia commitment), North Gwinnett's DeVondre Seymour, Donnie Miles (North Carolina), Jalen Brooks (Maryland), Archer's Antonio Riles (Florida) and Shon Akins (California), Buford's Josh Cardiello (Georgia), South Gwinnett's Reggie Carter (Georgia) and Parkview's Chris Carson, Kyle Williams and Shaq Vareen as some of the county's top recruited players.
"I think the college coaches even recognize that," Small said. "Everybody that came through said this is probably the more talented bunch in Gwinnett County they've ever seen."
But don't a expect a drop off in talent after this season. The county already has nearly a dozen juniors with scholarship offers.
"It's a pretty exciting time to be playing in our county and our North Georgia area," Crews said.