Top recruit to Clemson: Take my teammate, too

The nation’s top high school football prospect has unwittingly exposed one of the uncomfortable aspects of college recruiting.

And in so doing, he has shined a bright light on a practice that no one wants to admit exists.  

Rising senior Robert Nkemdiche, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound defensive end from Grayson High School in Loganville, Ga., has been the object of college coaches’ desires for several of years now. Like the princess at the ball, Nkemdiche has had plenty of suitors, including Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss (where his brother, Denzel, currently plays).

Robert Nkemdiche verbally committed to Clemson on June 14 — a coup for Tigers coach Dabo Swinney, who was roommates with Nkemdiche’s high school coach, Mickey Conn, when both played at Alabama.

But now the commitment may be in doubt.

On Friday, Nkemdiche told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I am waiting on Clemson to offer Ryan” a scholarship.

Ryan is Ryan Carter, a 5-11 safety at Grayson High who, by all indications, is very talented. In fact, Carter has an offer from Ole Miss, but he has not yet been approached by Clemson.

Now, Swinney’s in a pinch, since Nkemdiche is suggesting that his commitment might be a package deal.

“When that happens (signing Carter), it’s over … it’s a done deal … it’s locked,” Nkemdiche told the AJC.

Earlier this week, another Nkemdiche teammate and friend, quarterback Nick Schuessler, decided to give up his scholarship to Mississippi State for a preferred walk-on role at Clemson.

In the not-yet-fully-developed mind of a 17-year-old, that sort of thing makes perfect sense. Nkemdiche probably believes his actions are noble — he’s looking after his friends.

The negative implications of this quid pro quo deal probably haven’t dawned on him.

What would his Clemson teammates think, not just of Nkemdiche, but of Carter and the coaches who acquiesced to such demands? And what kind of precedent does it set if a high school kid can demand scholarships for his entourage?  

The saddest part of the entire affair is the lack of outrage or surprise. That is because, in truth, this sort of thing happens all the time.

Friends and family of top recruits often find their own stock vaulting as signing day draws near. And close high school teammates get recruited, not because of their own talent, but because of their relationships with a superstar.   

From a coach’s perspective, it’s worth it. If Cam Newton had asked Gene Chizik to bring the entire Blinn College backfield to Auburn, Chizik would have been foolish not to do it. Even with a signing limit per class, bringing on a few questionable signees in order to get a franchise player can make a lot of sense.  

Deals like the one Nkemdiche is floating are a part of recruiting.

To the best of anyone’s knowledge, this is the first time a recruit has made his demands through the media. The fact that Carter has an offer from Ole Miss (one of the eye-raising 246 verbal offers Hugh Freeze made in his first months in Oxford) has only thickened the plot.  

“If Clemson doesn’t offer Ryan, it would make me look at Ole Miss a little more, it would,” Nkemdiche said to the AJC. “It’s very important that I have my boys with me.” 

What happens in this case could have long-term implications.

You can bet other coaches are paying attention, as are all future top recruits.