RECRUITING

Film Study: Notre Dame DE commit Julian Okwara

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

DE Julian Okwara, 6-4, 210; Charlotte (N.C.) Ardrey Kell

The numbers: Okwara said he recorded roughly 90 tackles and 10 sacks in his junior season at Ardrey Kell. The Knights (10-4) ended their season in the second round of the Class 4AA playoffs.

The rankings: 247Sports — Four stars, No. 21 weakside defensive end. Rivals — Four stars, No. 16 outside linebacker.

FILM BREAKDOWN

First impression: Okwara is an undersized defensive end who makes up for his size deficiency with speed and quickness. Playing on the defensive line with the body of a linebacker, Okwara displays a relentless motor in tracking down the quarterback and other ball carriers. He will bring needed athleticism to Notre Dame’s defensive end depth chart.

Strengths: Okwara brings speed and quickness off the edge to disrupt opposing offenses in the backfield. His burst off the snap is so quick at times he ruins attempts at screen plays. Offenses assuming they don’t need to block him on those plays are making mistakes. Okwara shows awareness on the edge in his ability to raise up to deflect passes if he can’t get to the quarterback. Despite his lack of size, Okwara plays strong against the run. He closes the gap from the backside quickly and isn’t afraid to take on blockers. He’s a slippery defender and doesn’t allow many linemen to get a hold of him. Okwara also spends time making plays on special teams. He’s able to run in open space and break down to make tackles in kickoff coverage.

He did what? (:39) Okwara bursts off the line of scrimmage and blasts the running back in the backfield. He then regains his balance and changes direction to chase down the quarterback for a one-yard loss … (1:06) Okwara makes a tackle he has no business being in the area to make. After rushing the quarterback on a quick wide receiver screen, Okwara sprints to catch up to the receiver. He tracks down the ball 30 yards later to do what his teammates in the secondary had failed to do … (2:25) Okwara beats the offensive tackle and fights through the running back to keep the quarterback in the pocket. He wraps up the quarterback for a sack as soon as he tries to change direction.

Competition level: Ardery Kell played against a number of quality teams in the talented Charlotte area. The Knights put together a 2-3 record against teams in the Top 50 in North Carolina according to MaxPreps' final season rankings. Okwara didn’t line up against many elite offensive tackles, but he fared well against his opponents. His best competition one-on-one may have come on the practice field against offensive tackle Mason Veal, who signed with North Carolina in February.

Left to prove: Okwara’s biggest issue is his size. At 6-4, 210 pounds, he has a long way to go to be ready to compete on a college defensive line. He already has the height of his older brother Romeo, a soon-to-be senior defensive end for the Irish, but needs to add more weight. Romeo Okwara, now 260, weighed in at 235 when he signed as a recruit in 2012, so it will be interesting to see the gains Julian Okwara makes in the next year. He will need the strength and could be given time to develop with a redshirt season. He could still find a role as a situational pass rusher and special teams player early in his career. In his senior year, Okwara could use some polishing as a pass rusher. He relies mainly on speed but that will only get him so far. Opposing teams will be less likely to let him go untouched even on the backside of plays.

tjames@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame DE commit Julian Okwara. (Photo courtesy of Rivals)