Last November, in the second round of the GHSA Class AAAAAA state football playoffs, defending Class AAAAAA champion Loganville (Ga.) Grayson took on Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett. Coming into the game, all eyes were on defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, the No. 1 prospect in the country. Nkemdiche was coming off back-to-back seasons with 18 sacks and has been widely regarded as one of the most talented high school players to ever suit up in Georgia.
The player tasked with trying to contain the 6-foot-5, 270-pound five-star recruit was a sophomore named Mitch Hyatt. While most would get overwhelmed with the thought of blocking Nkemdiche, Hyatt used the opportunity to have a coming out party.
“Going into that game I felt like I had nothing to lose so I was not nervous,” Hyatt said. “I just tried to play my game.”
After the first drive ended, Hyatt came off the field breathing a sigh of relief.
“I knew then that I can hold my own against the No. 1 prospect in the country,” Hyatt said.
Throughout the game the 6-foot-6, 265-pound offensive tackle was able to neutralize Nkemdiche, forcing him to go through his myriad of pass-rushing moves before his coaches eventually moved the elite defensive end around to other positions on the line to make him more effective.
Even as Nkemdiche begins his career at Ole Miss, he remembers the meeting with Hyatt.
“I thought he was a good player and he really had good size for his age,” Nkemdiche said. “He caused me to work a little bit, although they often used a guard to help him.”
Hyatt has benefited from going up against another outstanding pass rusher in practice every day in ESPN 150 defensive end Dante Saywer. This spring, numerous colleges, including Auburn, Georgia, Notre Dame and Missouri, all came by to check out Hyatt.
Double-digit offers have come in for Hyatt already, which has resulted in head coach Bob Sphire taking an active approach in handling the recruitment of his prized left tackle.
“It has been difficult to keep track of the coaches’ names, especially while also focusing on school work,” Hyatt said. “Luckily Coach Sphire says he can take care of the schools trying to contact me and he will keep me informed on what they are saying while I concentrate on school.”
His family is also getting involved, with his mom researching the academics at each program under consideration and his uncle giving recruiting advice. Mitch’s uncle, Dan Benish, was a 6-foot-5 defensive tackle for Clemson’s 1981 national championship team, where he was an All-ACC selection.
One of Hyatt’s first offers caught his uncle off guard.
“My uncle got mad when he found out South Carolina offered me,” Hyatt said. “He went to Clemson and said why did you let them beat you again?”
Ohio State, Clemson and Louisville stand out for Hyatt, though he admits it’s still very early.
“I have heard about the great coaching staff at Ohio State and I am looking forward to learning more about the program,” Hyatt said. “I have family up there so I really want to see what it is all about. I went to junior day at Louisville and I like the approach of the coaching staff and their players.”
The Clemson connection has led many to assume Hyatt will follow in his uncle’s footsteps and play for the Tigers. Hyatt has been to several games and is approaching double digit visits to the campus, including one last month. While Hyatt admits there is a comfort level at Clemson, he is nowhere close to a decision.
“It is nice to have a school that I like so that I can base the pros and cons of other visits off of it,” Hyatt said. “I am familiar with Clemson and I grew up going to games. I am not really sure where I am going because I would definitely like to see other schools because I am not sure what all is out there. I am definitely not a Clemson lock.”
Georgia, Louisville and Kentucky have also been able to get Hyatt on campus so far and Ohio State and South Carolina are possible summer destinations.
“Georgia wants me to get up there for a few camps this summer and a few games. I will definitely be up there again this fall.”
Texas A&M and Oregon are two offers Hyatt is looking for, and if he builds off his coming-out party, he have a few more suitors in pursuit.