Okwara pledge brings 2016 commitments to five
Brian Plamondon | Friday, April 17, 2015
When offering scholarships to high schoolers, Notre Dame coaches like to stress how their team is one big family.
On Tuesday, Notre Dame added family, literally and figuratively, when it landed four-star defensive end Julian Okwara. Julian’s older brother, Romeo, is a senior defensive lineman who started twelve games for the Irish last fall.
The Charlotte, North Carolina-native Okwara, who checks in at No. 179 in the Rivals250, is Notre Dame’s fifth commitment in the class of 2016. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds he is listed as a linebacker but projects more as a defensive end.
“He’s long, [but] he’s going to take some time to develop,” Irish recruiting expert Andrew Ivins said. “But he’s the type of kid you can’t pass up on in the South, with schools like Clemson and Georgia coming after him.”
It was along the offensive line, however, where Notre Dame scored its first commitment for 2016. Ohioan Tommy Kraemer, a 6-foot-5, 310-pounder, pledged to the Irish in October. Rivals’ 31st overall prospect and second-ranked offensive tackle, Kraemer is the gem of the Irish class thus far. Looking to fill a need at offensive tackle, the Irish certainly aren’t content with just Kraemer, Ivins said.
“If you pair him up with a Ben Bredeson or a Liam Eichenberg, that’s your two future tackles,” said Ivins, who is an analyst for the Rivals-affiliated Blue & Gold Illustrated. Bredeson and Eichenberg are two top Irish targets, ranked as the No. 3 and No. 37 offensive tackles by Rivals, respectively. Both players were on campus this past weekend.
After Kraemer, Notre Dame didn’t secure a commitment for the next five months. Junior Day in March got the ball rolling quickly, however, with three commitments in a matter of two days. Three-star defensive back Julian Love, a 5-foot-11, 175-pounder, pledged March 21. Love, who hails from LaGrange Park, Illinois, is currently the No. 30 cornerback in the nation, per Rivals. Love provides versatility for a secondary that Ivins said may see up to five new faces in this class seeing as it’s the biggest position of need.
“He can play all three positions in the secondary,” Ivins said. “He might not be the biggest physical specimen, but he has great instincts. He’s quick when he needs to be, and he can make a hit.”
Pledging along with Love on March 21 was Illinois native and two-star center John Shannon, who is widely considered the top long snapper in the class. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Shannon has Notre Dame in his blood, with his grandfather and father both having suited up for the Irish. With current long snapper Scott Daly holding two more years of eligibility, the plan will be for Shannon to redshirt in 2016 before taking over the starting job in 2017, Ivins said.
After Love and Shannon pledged on March 21, the Irish secured a commitment from Florida running back Tony Jones the day after. At 6-foot-1, 212 pounds, Rivals rates Jones the 29th best back.
“What Notre Dame likes about him is he’s a different type of back,” Ivins said. “He’s a powerful back … [He] lost some weight, so he’s put on a little bit of speed. They like him because he can do a lot of things — he’s really good in pass protection, [and] he can catch the ball out of the backfield.”
With those five in the fold, the Irish really only have room for another dozen or so prospects, Ivins said. This gives Notre Dame the opportunity to be extremely selective with the rest of its spots as the coaches get back into recruiting mode with the spring evaluation period opening this past Wednesday.
For more on Notre Dame recruiting, check out BlueandGold.com.
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