Nkemdiche adds depth to Rebels secondary

Most of the news concerning Ole Miss’ defense -- especially its secondary -- lately hasn’t been great.

The Rebels lost defensive standout -- and emotional leader -- D.T. Shackelford this spring. Then, coach Houston Nutt dismissed linebacker Clarence Jackson and defensive end Delvin Jones just days after both were after arrested for public drunkenness.

Let’s not forget the defense as a whole has a lot of questions surrounding it heading into the 2011 season.

Well, the Rebels’ defense finally got some good news -- and at just the right area, too.

Defensive back Denzel Nkemdiche, which is pronounced kim-DEECH-ee (thank you, Ole Miss), signed a financial aid agreement with Ole Miss and is expected to be available to play for the Rebels this fall.

Nkemdiche, of Loganville, Ga., is a member of Ole Miss’ 2011 class. Originally, Nkemdiche signed with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in February because it was thought that he would be an academic non-qualifier. Earlier this week, Nkemdiche received the news that he had gotten a high enough score on his SAT to be cleared academically.

Due to NCAA rules, Nkemdiche can’t sign a letter of intent because the LOI period ended on April 1, but he was allowed to sign the financial aid agreement. Technically, he won’t officially be counted as an Ole Miss recruit until he attends his first day of classes this summer.

"Denzel helps our numbers in the defensive backfield immensely," Nutt said in a release. "He is physical and very fast. He is a blitzer who tackles fundamentally sound, and most importantly, he finds the football. With his versatility, he provides a lot of options."

The 5-foot-11, 198-pound athlete could wind up playing safety for the Rebels, but there was a shortage of cornerback numbers this spring. He recorded 101 tackles, including 18 for loss, eight sacks and three interception returns for touchdowns as a senior. On offense, he rushed for 192 yards and three scores on 39 carries.

The addition of Nkemdiche brings some much-needed help to the Rebels’ secondary. Ole Miss worked with just three scholarship cornerbacks this spring. The Rebels have better depth at safety, but as a whole, the unit is still unproven.

The Rebels do return senior starter Damien Jackson at free safety, and sophomores Brishen Matthews and Frank Crawford are also back. Ole Miss also got some good production out of junior college transfers Ivan Nicholas and Josh Shipp this spring.