Notre Dame received its 5th commitment in the 2016 recruiting class when North Carolina defensive end Julian Okwara pledged to the Irish. Julian is listed at 6'4" and 220 pounds; the 247 Composite has him as the #186 overall player, #11 weakside defensive end, and #6 player in North Carolina. He holds offers from Duke, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia, among others.
The name Okwara is very familiar to Irish fans, of course, as Julian's older brother Romeo will enter his senior season in South Bend in 2015. Julian is a more highly-touted player than Romeo was, who was ranked #460 overall in the 2012 247 Composite, and is also a "normal" age for his class - Romeo was not yet 17 when he enrolled at Notre Dame, while Julian will turn 18 during his senior season of high school. All things considered, the younger Okwara should be a step or two ahead of where the elder was as a freshman.
If you're looking for a little more trivia, the Okwaras hail from the same high school as former Notre Dame star, current Atlanta Falcon, and fellow Nigerian immigrant Prince Shembo.
Recruiting Service Rankings
Rivals - 4 star (5.8 rating), #179 overall, #16 position, #6 in North Carolina
247 - 4 star (90 rating), #290 overall, #21 position, #10 in North Carolina
ESPN - No stars (no rating), NR overall, NR position, NR in North Carolina
Scout - 4 star, #128 overall, #15 position, #4 in North Carolina
247 Composite - 4 star (0.9237 rating), #186 overall, #11 position, #6 in North Carolina
Julian needs a little polish, but you can definitely see why he has so many quality offers. He shows good speed and strength, repeatedly beating blocks or standing his ground against bigger guys. He even beats the occasional double team. He also shows some nice hustle, chasing plays on the opposite side or well downfield. I like his reaction time, too; he follows misdirection pretty well and did a great job batting down some passes. His areas for improvement are pretty much all in the area of technique - he tackles high very consistently, and he also gets a little high sometimes when taking on blocks. The raw material is definitely there, though.
Position-wise, I'm also interested to see that his high school moves him around on the defensive line and occasionally drops him into coverage. He definitely profiles as a college rush end, but with VanGorder's creativity you never know what a kid might be asked to do; it's good to see that Okwara mixes it up some already.
We'll see how Okwara develops physically and technically during his senior year, but on both dimensions it seems unlikely that he could be an instant-impact guy. He has a good frame to add weight and will have a chance to work intensively with Paul Longo to do so, and he'll get some serious tutoring from Keith Gilmore on his technique. Julian will most likely get the freshman redshirt that his brother should've had, and benefit greatly from it.
Long Term / Career
Okwara is mostly upside, somewhat similar to Bo Wallace and Jhonny Williams in the last couple of recruiting cycles, which makes it difficult to project where he'll fit down the road. Most analysts expect him to be able to add size but keep his speed; if he can indeed do that his floor should be an effective situational pass rusher and rotation guy, and his ceiling could be an every-down disruptor.