Photo: Alex EdwardsGrayson grad Denzel Nkemdiche
Facing defending national champion and current No. 1 Alabama, with its highly regarded offensive line, Denzel Nkemdiche delivered a star performance last Saturday.
The Grayson graduate was a disruptive force all night against a veteran offensive line that some coaches have called the best in college football. Despite his team's 33-14 loss, the speedy linebacker was named the SEC co-defensive player of the week.
"I think the film confirmed what we saw live which was just a fanatical effort," Ole Miss linebackers coach Tom Allen said of Nkemdiche's game against Alabama. "We call him the Tasmanian devil. That's kind of how he plays. He's not very big, but he's got a huge heart, and I think his play is infectious."
The Tasmanian devil moniker fits Nkemdiche well.
Not big for an SEC linebacker at 5-foot-11, 203 pounds, he relies on his speed and quickness to dart all over the field. Those skills led him to a career-high 11 tackles against the Crimson Tide, with three for losses, one sack and two forced fumbles in an inspired effort.
"That's the new mindset of our defense," Nkemdiche said. "We're going to be physical and hit them in the mouth whenever they run it, whenever they catch it."
Nkemdiche didn't get the recruiting attention of his younger brother Robert, a Grayson defensive lineman ranked as the consensus No. 1 senior nationally, but he has become a huge find for the rebuilding Rebels.
He leads Ole Miss in tackles (32), tackles for losses (six), sacks (two) and forced fumbles (two) entering today's matchup with Texas A&M.
"He's always out there motivating us and picking us up," Ole Miss sophomore defensive end C.J. Johnson said of Nkemdiche. "I wouldn't necessarily say picking us up because we are never down, but the confidence, swagger, and energy he brings -- I mean you watch him on film, he's everywhere. We call him a little Tasmanian devil. He's all over the place. We definitely feed off of him, no doubt."
Raymond, Chapple square off in college
The final score was heavily in Harvard's favor, a 52-3 victory last week over Holy Cross, but the Greater Atlanta Christian players on both sides fared well.
Holy Cross' Kalif Raymond, a freshman from GAC, was named the Patriot League rookie of the week for his performance. He had eight kickoff returns for 156 yards and two punt returns for 35 yards for a career-high 191 all-purpose yards, the seventh-highest single-game total in school history.
Fellow GAC grad Colton Chapple had a big game in Harvard's winning effort. He completed 13 of 18 passes for 260 yards and threw four touchdown passes in the Crimson's 49-point first half.
Harvard is 3-0 on the season and Holy Cross is 0-4.
Greene gets Kennesaw State honor
Peachtree Ridge grad Ben Greene, a senior golfer, was given the latest Owls of Excellence Award, a first-year honor given to a Kennesaw State athlete who excels in sports, in the classroom and in community service.
Greene is an active participant in the Owls' Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and his community service includes work with the Boys and Girls Club, the First Tee of Atlanta and the Golden Soldiers. He also maintains a 4.0 GPA in finance, resulting in three straight Atlantic Sun All-Academic Team selections and the prestigious NCAA Elite 88 Award in 2011.
Bayly earns league honor
Columbus State's Kansas Bayly, a Parkview grad, was selected as the Peach Belt Conference defender of the week on Monday.
Bayly had two goals and an assist the previous week, while anchoring a defense that posted back-to-back conference shutouts.
Mitchell also gets Peach Belt award
The Peach Belt women's soccer player of the week also went to a Parkview product --Armstrong Atlantic's Morgan Mitchell.
The junior had four goals in two matches last week, including a hat trick in a 4-3 win over North Georgia. Her final goal of the North Georgia match was a game-winner three minutes into overtime.
Mitchell leads the Peach Belt in goals (11) and points (26).
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to email@example.com.