Robert Nkemdiche

Top recruit’s mom talks Clemson, Ole Miss and love of Alabama


In June of this year, Robert Nkemdiche, the consensus No. 1 recruit on the Class of 2013, surprised some by verbally committing to Clemson over the likes of Alabama and Ole Miss.

That decision didn’t sit well with the defensive lineman’s mother, who told ESPN the Magazine in September that the verbal “is not final” and that she’s “unhappy with Clemson” being her son’s current school of choice.  Instead, Beverly Nkemdiche favored Ole Miss, where another of her sons, Denzel, is a standout member of the Rebels football team.

Nearly two months later, mom is still leery of Clemson… still likes Ole Miss because of the sibling connection… and really, really, really likes the defending BcS champions.

In an expansive interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mrs. Nkemdiche, who is a government official in Nigeria, further fine-tuned her stance on the three main contenders vying for her son’s immense football talents:

On Ole Miss…

“Every parent would really want [their kids to play together in college]. It’s my wish for it to happen, but I’m not going to put pressure on anybody. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, OK. But I would really love for them to play together.”

“If they play together, it would make more sense. The twins that play for UGA, they play together and they [complement] one another. It’s the Ogletree twins, and they play together for UGA. I watched them this past week (against Florida) for the first time, and I kind of liked that. I want to see my boys play together like that, also. There’s nothing so wrong in a mother wanting both boys to play together.”

On Clemson…

“I’ve not talked to anybody from Clemson’s team. I don’t want to go there because that’s out of my way. There is nothing that would take me there.”

“But like I said, Clemson is out of the way for me. There is nothing that would take me there. It’s not like it’s a bad school or whatever.”

On Alabama…

“My No. 1 team is Alabama. That’s one school I truly love, Alabama. But I don’t have [a] child in Alabama to take me to Alabama.”

“Alabama has a good football team. And they’re solid. They have good academics. Right now, they are undefeated. And I’ve stayed in stayed in touch with their coach on Facebook. He is a good person. I like the school but again, I would prefer for Denzel and Robert to play together.”

One of the biggest takeaways from the interview is that while she remains leery of the recruiting process as it relates to Clemson — “I would think that he was probably pressured to do it, to commit” — Nkemdiche’s mother would speak to Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney if he were to reach out via the telephone, although, again, a campus visit isn’t in the cards as she doesn’t “want to travel around just to go see a school.”

Mrs. Nkemdiche continued to stress she’s “not putting pressure on” her son to play at a particular school, that “it’s our understanding that Robert can go to any school that he wants to go to.”

As long as it’s Ole Miss or Alabama and not Clemson, it seems.

With National Signing Day a little over three months away, it remains to be seen whether Swinney and his coaching staff can maintain Nkemdiche’s verbal commitment — especially if they can’t flip the mom’s current stance.

USC’s Max Tuerk already questionable for Notre Dame game

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 11:  Center Max Tuerk #75 of the USC Trojans prepares to snap the football during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Trojans defeatred the Wildcats 28-26.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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As if the questions about the head coach’s future aren’t enough, now USC could have a rather significant issue in the middle of its offensive line to deal with as well.

Early in the first quarter of what would turn out to be an embarrassing loss to Washington Thursday night, Max Tuerk sustained a sprained knee. Upon further examination, it was determined that the veteran center would be unable to return to the game.

Not only that, Tuerk, who was wearing a brace on his right knee following the loss, is already labeled as questionable for what it in every sense of the phrase a must-win game for Steve Sarkisian against Notre Dame eight days from now.

With Tuerk sidelined for the remainder of the game, he was replaced by Toa Lobendahn. It’s unclear which direction the Trojans would go if Tuerk is a no-go this weekend, although Khaliel Rodgers, who had been dealing with a personal issue, has been Tuerk’s backup.

Tuerk has started 38 games in his Trojan career — 18 at center, 14 at left guard, five at left tackle, one at right tackle. Lobendahn started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, the first eight at left guard and then five at right tackle.

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.