Robert Nkemdiche is one of the most dominant defensive players in the SEC. The 2013 unanimous No. 1 overall recruit has a rare combination of size and speed to excel at several positions.
But can he win the SEC Defensive Player of the Year as a defensive tackle?
Nkemdiche is a star at a position lacking star power. Defensive tackles provide the aid of clogging the line and opening up pass rush opportunities while defensive ends and linebackers fill the stat sheets. The junior is capable of changing positions, but is best suited to anchor the defensive line.
Nkemdiche is among the favorites to win the 2015 SEC Defensive Player of the Year Award. However, only two defensive tackles have won the award since its inception in 2003, LSU’s Chad Lavalais (2003) and Glenn Dorsey (2007).
The award has been given to five linebackers, three defensive backs and two defensive ends — both coming in the past two seasons.
Statistics are valued in the award’s voting process. Nkemdiche is one of two defensive tackles headlining the list of favorites for 2015, according to Bleacher Report.
Sack artists like Tennessee’s Derek Barnett and Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett headline the list. Ball hawks such as Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III and LSU’s Tre’Davious White are also represented.
Nkemdiche is similar to Dorsey in 2007. He enters as a potential top-5 draft pick and should fill a stat sheet regardless of his position. Nkemdiche also anchors a defense that is filled with talent and expected to contend in a tough SEC West.
The junior also has the benefit of being one of the most heralded prospects of all-time. Nkemdiche has garnered attention since high school and has lived up to lofty expectations. He will remain under college football’s microscope in what is assumed to be his final season and should continue his progress as a developing player.
Nkemdiche’s chances will coincide with his team’s success. Ole Miss was a surprise contender in 2014 due to its program-changing 2013 recruiting class, which was headlined by the defensive tackle. The Landshark Defense should continue its success in 2015, even with the departure of All-Americans Senquez Goldson and Cody Prewitt.
Nkemdiche is the centerpiece of a defensive unit that has both talent and depth, including defensive back Tony Conner and fellow defensive tackle Issac Gross.
The junior lineman will remain in contention for the Defensive Player of the Year Award should the Rebels defense continue to see success. Nkemdiche will be one of the nation’s top defensive players and should bring star power to a position that lacks it.