ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — LSU remains one of two schools at the forefront of the hunt for the country’s consensus No. 1 high school recruit, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche.
The standout pass rusher from Grayson High School in Loganville, Ga., did not commit during Friday’s Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound senior is keeping his options open but said LSU and Ole Miss are his top choices.
“I’m still looking,” he said, “but they’re my leaders right now.”
Nkemdiche, who had a tackle and a quarterback hurry in his team’s 16-3 win, said his decision will come down to a handful of factors, including his family. His parents immigrated to Georgia from Nigeria, where his mother works as a legislator. His older brother, Denzel, is a redshirt freshman linebacker at Ole Miss who led the Rebels in tackles this season.
“It’ll come down to me, what my family wants and … what coaches I think can get me to the next level quickly,” Nkemdiche said.
He decommitted from Clemson in November, six months after giving his verbal pledge. He said he doesn’t regret his decision to commit — or decommit.
“Some people, they feel like they’re ready, but they’re not,” he said. “It’s just like a marriage, man. You feel you’re ready, then all of a sudden you get divorced in a couple months.”
A pair of LSU defensive line commits, Maquedius Bain and Greg Gilmore, said they spent much of their week in Florida trying to get Nkemdiche to sign with the Tigers next month.
“I told him, ‘Man, come play with me and Gilmore,’ ” said Bain, a four-star recruit. “It’ll just be like an all-star game. He’s fast. He’s quick. He’s a good D-end. I’d love to see him at LSU right now.”
Tight end firm with LSU
Tight end Josh McNeil was listed as an Alabama recruit on the official Under Armour Game roster supplied by ESPN, but the 6-5, 226-pound North Carolina native said he’s a “strong, strong commitment” — to LSU.
“I was committed to Alabama before I went on an official (visit) to LSU,” he said. “I feel like it changed my whole life. It was like family down there.”
McNeil, Rivals’ No. 10 tight end recruit and ESPN’s No. 131 overall prospect, reportedly switched his decision just before Christmas. He said he doesn’t plan to take any more official visits and that he’s firm with the Tigers.
McNeil had a rough week of practice in Florida after tweaking his hamstring during drills at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex but said he felt rejuvenated after an ice bath Thursday night. His body responded Friday, and he slid for a 6-yard touchdown catch in his team’s 16-3 victory.
One of LSU’s biggest recruiting gains came Wednesday, when Bain gave the Tigers landed his verbal commitment. The 6-5, 285-pound lineman from Fort Lauderdale’s University School said he chose the Tigers over Louisville, Oklahoma and Miami because of his relationship with LSU coaches.
“When I took my official visit, I fell in love with it,” said Bain, ESPN’s No. 43 prospect.
Two days after announcing his decision, Bain reiterated that his recruitment was over and that he’ll be headed for Baton Rouge. He had a tackle during Friday’s game.
The Tigers’ other top pickup came Friday, when East Feliciana pass rusher Kendell Beckwith announced his commitment. Moments after the game, Beckwith said he was relieved that the process was over.
“All them thoughts in my head, they’re going out the window now,” said Beckwith, who chose LSU over Alabama.
The Tigers’ three-loss season, capped by a 25-24 defeat to Clemson in Monday’s Chick-fil-A Bowl, didn’t faze Gilmore, a 6-4, 285-pound lineman who has been committed since November.
“We’re gonna come back from last year,” said Gilmore, ESPN’s No. 104 prospect.