On location with the "Grayson Trio"

by - Senior Writer -
TigerNet gets a firsthand look at the nation's number one prospect Robert Nkemdiche.

LOGANVILLE, GA. – Thanks to head coach Mickey Conn and the Grayson High School coaching staff, I was able to attend Tuesday’s spring practice at Grayson. While there I got to watch Clemson commitment Wayne Gallman Wayne Gallman
Running Back
6-1, 195
Loganville, GA

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and targets Robert Nkemdiche Robert Nkemdiche
Defensive End
6-5, 265
Loganville, GA

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and David Kamara David Kamara

5-11, 185
Loganville, GA

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Grayson sits just a little over two hours down the interstate from Clemson, and I would encourage any fans who want a glimpse of any of these players to do so next football season. Conn has built a good football program, and he has a nice collection of talent.

When we first got out to the practice field, I noticed the number of college coaches who were in attendance – Wisconsin running backs coach Thomas Hammock was there to see Gallman; Wake Forest secondary coach Tim Duffie was there scouting Kamara and a few others; Wake Forest defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brian Knorr was there; and Maryland offensive line coach Tom Brattan was there.

(This isn’t really germane to what I am writing, but the Wake Forest coaches were quite funny. Once they found out I wrote for a Clemson website, they were telling me that Clemson had enough athletes and needed to stop recruiting, etc. As Nkemdiche made one impressive play – blowing up a guard and then a running back – I mentioned how he reminded of former Tiger Da’Quan Bowers, and Knorr quipped back, “He reminds me of all your players. They all look like that.” Sometimes, it’s interesting to see how other programs perceive yours.)

Another nice part of the afternoon was getting to talk with Conn’s father, Charlie Conn, who remembers Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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fondly (the younger Conn and Swinney played together at Alabama and they still have a good relationship. The elder Conn said he even sent Swinney a message last season outlining Clemson’s problems on defense and that Swinney should “run the football more.”

We are going to have feature stories on all three players, but we will just do some quick observations in this one.

We’ll start off with Gallman. Many people take a look at Gallman’s stats from last season (130 rushes for a little over 700 yards) and wondered if Gallman was the kind of back Clemson was looking for. After watching Gallman run through drills and through people for most of the afternoon, those concerns can be laid to rest. Gallman can play linebacker as well as running back, and he brings that linebacker’s mentality to the running back position. He doesn’t mind hitting people, and he doesn’t mind hitting the hole with a quick burst. One of the coaches I talked to said that Gallman’s numbers were not as high as they could have been for a number of reasons: 1. Grayson runs a version of the Wing T, so they have a lot of ball carriers; 2. Gallman had to play a lot of linebacker last year; and 3. Grayson had a running clock in the second half of six different games last year because they were so far ahead, limiting Gallman’s opportunities even more.

One play in particular stood out to me about Gallman, however. Nkemdiche, all 285 pounds of him, lined up in the backfield and took a pitch from the quarterback and immediately tried to take it outside. Gallman, who had lined up on defense for the play, had no problem squaring his shoulders and running into the nation’s No. 1 recruit. He took him down, and the resulting collision drew cheers from his teammates. Gallman came over to the sideline with a big grin on his face, and said, “I’m not scared of him.” Two plays later, Gallman took his own pitch and split two defenders for an easy touchdown. I like his toughness, and one of the college coaches there called him a “true tailback.”

Robert Nkemdiche – This was my first time seeing Nkemdiche in person, and my first thought when I saw him was Da’Quan Bowers. He reminds of Bowers, especially in his lower body, but is bigger and thicker than Da’Quan was at the same age. And it was readily apparent that he is a very good player. The kid has the size and speed to be a dominant player on the next level (I know, we already knew that). He runs over people, runs through them, and can run around them when he needs to. The coaches told me that he is running a 4.5 40-yard dash right now, and that isn’t hard to believe.

One thing I really liked about him, above and beyond the obvious physical gifts, was his leadership. While the defensive linemen were going through drills, he was taking younger players aside and helping them with their technique and encouraging them. It’s not too hard to tell that many of those younger players look up to Nkemdiche, and when he would take one aside to offer a tip and a pat on the helmet, it showed a side that not many of the great players possess.

Another funny note – they asked one of the younger players to act as the “quarterback” while the offensive linemen and defensive linemen went through drills. The coach asked the nervous youngster if he could run, and when he answered the yes, the coach told him to get in there and play quarterback. Then he offered some advice, saying, “But don’t get killed. If you see No. 1 coming, get out of the way. I’m serious.”

What shocked me the most was how much he lined up in the backfield. On one pass play, he took a swing pass out of the backfield and sprinted down the sideline (this after two hours of play in the trenches) at full speed. The only player between him and the end zone was a safety – about 5-10, 180 pounds – who wisely did his best impression of a bullfighter and waved Nkemdiche on through, much to the jeers of his teammates.

In short, Nkemdiche is a player, the kind of player who can take a good defense and make it into a great one. He even said he wouldn’t mind playing a little running back on the goal line in college as well. Heck, he could play linebacker in the right system and even mentioned that some schools are offering that to him.

Finally, David Kamara. I know all of the coaches that were out there were getting a good look at Nkemdiche’s best friend. Kamara admitted to me that the recruiting process has been difficult and that more people ask him where his best friend is going than ask him about his own plans. Some have even suggested he only has offers as a way of enticing Nkemdiche. Not the case.

One of the coaches out there called Kamara a true shutdown corner, and he loves to hit people. He also plays wingback on offense, and it doesn’t matter whether he is on offense or defense, he goes out of his way to hit somebody. I was actually surprised at how good he looks coming out of his backpedal and how he can use his hips to change direction on a dime. He looks to be one of those rare corners that loves the coverage part of the game, but also wants to come up and lay the wood to somebody. And he and his two buddies are constantly competing – who can run the fastest, who can make the tackle, who can kill the running back first, etc.

On one play, he had outside coverage on a receiver, but read a quick pass to the tight end. He came underneath the tight end and knocked the pass away, and then a play later went over a receiver for an interception.

More on all three – with pictures and videos – tomorrow.

Head coach Mickey Conn gives his scouting report on the "Grayson Trio"

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