Film study: Notre Dame DE commit Julian Okwara

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

DE Julian Okwara, 6-4, 216; Charlotte (N.C.) Ardrey Kell.

The numbers: Okwara recorded 84 tackles (70 solo), 11 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and four forced fumbles in his senior season at Ardrey Kell. He added four catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns on offense. The Knights (7-6) finished the season with a loss in the second round of the NCHSAA Class 4AA playoffs.

The rankings: Rivals – Four stars, No. 18 weakside defensive end. 247Sports – Four stars, No. 24 weakside defensive end.


First impression: Okwara is a wiry defensive end with a knack for getting after the quarterback. He played the position in a linebacker’s body. He’ll need to add weight to make a difference at Notre Dame. If developed to his ceiling, Okwara could be an elite pass rusher.

Strengths: Okwara has a great frame for defensive end. His long arms give him an advantage against offensive linemen. He uses them well in disengaging with a lineman trying to block him. Okwara also has the speed to blow by linemen. He’s relentless in his pursuit of the football. Okwara has to be blocked on the backside of running plays. If not, he’s shown the ability to track down the ball from the backside to prevent a substantial gain.

He did what? (:10) Okwara works around the right tackle, fights him off with his right arm, gets a clean shot on the quarterback and hits him hard. The right tackle probably had to apologize a few times after that one … (:36) Okwara shows his persistence by continuing to push back the right tackle as he keeps an eye on the quarterback rolling to his right. Then when the quarterback gets near him, Okwara uses his long arms to disengage and make the tackle … (4:52) Okwara starts on the right side of the defense, but the ball is run to the other side of the field. As soon as he recognizes the play, Okwara takes an angle to catch the running back downfield. Okwara uses his speed to make the tackle more than 50 yards downfield. He could have easily given up on the play, but because of his effort Okwara prevents a touchdown.

Competition level: North Carolina has emerged as one of the top states for recruiting talent just below the top tier of Florida, Texas, California and Georgia. As of 2015, only seven states produced more top 100 recruits in the last five years. Ardrey Kell played against three teams ranked in the top 20 in North Carolina according to MaxPreps: Charlotte Catholic (No. 3), Hough (No. 8) and Weddington (No. 17). The best offensive tackle Okwara went against during his senior season may have been his teammate Taleni Suhren, a Wake Forest commit.

Left to prove: Some serious work in Notre Dame’s strength and conditioning program will be the first order of business for Okwara. The Irish will need to figure out a plan to maximize his physical traits by adding weight to his frame. On the field, Okwara can improve his first step. He has speed, but he didn’t always utilize it with a quick first step. He’ll need to find more consistency at the snap of the ball. At times, Okwara also played a little too hesitant. It may have been a product of his defensive responsibilities, but Okwara will need to be aggressive at the line of scrimmage. If he slows down to look in the backfield, a college offensive lineman will take control of him.


Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Defensive end recruit Julian Okwara may need some time to add weight before seeing the field at Notre Dame. (Photo courtesy of Student Sports)