Confident safety recruit Okeke receives Notre Dame offer

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Ikenna Okeke is getting used to the attention.

And it isn't slowing down. Following Okeke's junior football season at Smyrna (Tenn.) High, college programs have been extending offers, coaches have been trying to get in touch with him and reporters have been wanting to know the latest.

An offer from Notre Dame on March 3 added another notch on his recruiting timeline. It is the kind of attention he welcomes, especially after seeing the results of negative publicity at his school.

Last month, the girls basketball program at his school drew national headlines after participating in a game against Riverdale in which both teams were blatantly trying to lose in order to manipulate a more favorable state tournament bracket. Both teams were banned from postseason play this season and both coaches suspended for next season as a result.

Smyrna defeated Riverdale 55-29 in a game peppered with intentionally missed free throws and turnovers, and players nearly shooting at the opponents basket.

The news cycle swept up Smyrna.

“Every day we had a new camera crew coming into the school to interview the coaches and players,” Okeke said. “It was crazy."

Over the next year, Smyrna will have plenty more visitors in the form of college coaches coming to see the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Okeke.

“I stand out because of my size as a DB,” Okeke said. “Once you watch my film, you can see I can tackle and cover. I know I can fit in any defense I play on.”

The confident Okeke recorded 62 tackles, five interceptions and two fumble recoveries in his junior season as a safety. He returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown. Okeke also caught 16 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver.

“I'm a force on defense,” Okeke said. “I'm always ready to create a spark by being a playmaker on defense."

The three-star recruit has received attention from major programs. His offer list, which recently hit double digits, includes Tennessee, Louisville, Penn State and Vanderbilt.

Rivals ranks him as the No. 25 safety in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him No. 33 at the position.

Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Mike Elston spoke with Okeke last week to extend the Irish offer. Okeke hopes to visit South Bend in the summer when he makes a northern swing to a number of schools.

“I was excited,” Okeke said about the Notre Dame offer. “From a bunch of people I've heard good things about their school.”

The Irish will face stiff competition from the home-state Volunteers. Tennessee became his first college scholarship offer in November, after visited he the Knoxville campus for three different games last season.

“That fan base is crazy,” Okeke said. “They're definitely one of the schools that will probably be in the running."

As the recruiting process starts to become a regular part of Okeke’s day, he’s making sure to stay sharp in the offseason. He wants to prove he deserves the attention.

"I want to touch up every single aspect of my game,” Okeke said. “I want to continue to increase my speed and agility so I can dominate in my senior year."

Below are junior highlights of Okeke via Hudl.

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Logos are shown on the helmet of players during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Purdue in Indianapolis, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)