The Gator Nation's Palatinate of the Internet has been ablaze this morning with the news, reported by Rivals and 247Sports and ESPN, that Robert Nkemdiche, the nation's consensus No. 1 overall prospect, will take an official visit to Florida. This is obviously good news for Gators fans and Will Muschamp, because it's better to have the best high school football player in the country come to campus to see what's up than to not have him do that.
But don't get your hopes up: It's not an indication that Nkemdiche is anything but Ole Miss-bound.
SB Nation's Steven Godfrey broke and wrote the definitive piece on Ole Miss' recruitment of Nkemdiche in October, and predicted that Nkemdiche would eventually flip from Clemson to Ole Miss based on his brother Denzel starring for the Rebels in 2012 and Hugh Freeze's smart recruiting. Nkemdiche later decommitted from Clemson, and has been seen by insiders and outside observers alike as a heavy Ole Miss lean since.
But Nkemdiche wasn't going to be an Ole Miss commit until National Signing Day, even in that prescient story, and Godfrey quoted an Ole Miss recruiting analyst saying that Nkemdiche was likely to consider other schools — including Florida.
Porter says he believes Robert will take official visits in the winter to Ole Miss, Clemson and LSU before making his decision, with Oregon, Florida and Alabama in close consideration as well.
It's January, and Nkemdiche is considering Ole Miss and LSU, taking an official visit to Florida, and has had Oregon and Alabama rumors surrounding him, too. Nothing that has happened has been a surprise, even though Nkemdiche's visit to Gainesville on January 18 will be his first official visit. Everything is happening just as it sounded like it was going to months ago.
I think that's got a lot to do with Ole Miss planning a bigger, better National Signing Day surprise, one Nkemdiche will star in.
Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell, Antonio (Tony) Conner, and Elijah Daniel are all big-time recruits — 247Sports has all four as five-star prospects within their top 28 nationally; Rivals has Nkemdiche and Treadwell in its top 10 as five-stars, and Conner and Daniel as four-star prospects; ESPN, which has just 11 five-star players, puts Nkemdiche No. 1 and Treadwell, Conner, and Daniel within its top 34 — who are likely Ole Miss commits, for a variety of reasons: Nkemdiche's brother is on the team, and he's been in and out of Oxford all fall; Treadwell has a friend on the team; Conner's from about a half-hour west of Oxford; Ole Miss has been on Daniel for a long time and should be able to accept him if his grades aren't good enough for Florida.
If all four remain uncommitted until National Signing Day, they can maximize the media benefit for Ole Miss, a smart program that has been all about garnering media attention under Freeze, by committing in some order on the day when everyone in college football cares about recruiting. And in the interim, they can all recruit for Ole Miss at all-star games without reporters noting who "Ole Miss commit _______" was talking to, and take official visits elsewhere for the purposes of a) enjoying the fruits of being a coveted high school football player; b) wasting an opposing staff's time with a player who is a long shot to commit; and c) getting a little recon on how other teams recruit.
That would be smart for any school to do, as long as it trusts its commits to do so, and Nkemdiche, who is the son of a Nigerian politician and a doctor, is certainly smart enough to be trusted to do that, given that he either outfoxed Clemson or the Atlanta Journal-Constitution during this recruiting cycle.
There are still benefits to getting Nkemdiche on campus for Florida if, as the pessimist's view holds, he's nothing less than an Ole Miss sleeper agent. It's a sign that Muschamp can at least get the biggest of big-time recruits to do more than just listen to Florida, and a chance to make an impression on that recruit. Florida isn't structuring its recruiting around compiling stars because Muschamp's not that guy and because it doesn't have to, but it sure doesn't hurt to have a day of headlines like the one on this post being written about Florida.
And because this is recruiting, and things change on a nearly hourly basis for even the average high school senior, things can change. Nkemdiche's visit to Florida could, in fact, be the precursor to him ending up in Gainesville for his collegiate career.
But even the wildly unpredictable world of recruiting is best understood through likelihoods. Robert Nkemdiche could pick a dark horse three weeks before the end of his recruitment and hop on it on National Signing Day ... or he could ride with the crew he's seems to have been riding with for months.
Which outcome is more likely, do you think?