Romeo Okwara- Charlotte, North Carolina
Recruiting Rank: 247- 4 star/ ESPN- 3 star/ Rivals-3 Star
Romeo Okwara came to Notre Dame without a lot of sky-high expectations. Most of those who followed recruiting knew that he was an athletically gifted athlete with good speed and burst for a defensive end/linebacker that needed to gain some weigh coming into Bob Diaco's defense. Even though he had the physical tools, Okwara was likely going to be a project considering he was only 16 years old when he got to ND.
Okwara was forced to forego a redshirt season and play right away because of a lack of depth that existed at outside linebacker when he arrived. Even with his lack of experience, he performed admirably as a backup, playing in all 13 games and finishing with 7 tackles and a forced fumble.
Okwara's second season saw much of the same as he continued to perform as a reserve outside linebacker in Diaco's 3-4 defense. Romeo saw an uptick in production with 19 tackles and getting the first start of his career against Navy.
The past season is when Okwara has moved into the starting line-up consistently and has begun to make his mark on the Irish. With totals of 39 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and staring 12 games. Romeo benefitted greatly from the move from linebacker to fulltime defensive end in Brian Van Gorder's defense, a move that took advantage of his size and speed.
There's one question that needs to be asked going into this season about Romeo...
Should he even play?
Romeo will only be 20 years old during the season. That's younger than most juniors on the roster. With some depth along the defensive line built up over the last few years, it may be the right time to give Romeo a year off to let his body mature. This may be a pipe dream as most of the depth along the defensive line is very young but it may be a thought that flashes through the coaching staff's minds as the look at some roster management moves this summer.