No matter if it's fair or not, it's impossible not to compare recent Notre Dame commitment Julian Okwara to his brother, current Notre Dame player Romeo Okwara.
Other than the fact they are brothers, Julian and Romeo both play the same position. So Julian's path when he gets to Notre Dame could be end up being very similar to Romeo's. I don't think it will though because when you take a closer look at comparing the two as recruits, their situations are a lot different than you would think and those differences could have a significant impact on how Julian's football career turns out at Notre Dame.
Romeo has not made the impact at Notre Dame many hoped he would have when he came in as a freshman, but there are a lot of factors that should benefit Julian's chances of being a more productive player for multiple years for the Irish.
Here's a breakdown of all those factors:
Romeo was younger at the same point in high school than Julian is now
Romeo was only sixteen years old during his senior season of high school football. Julian is going to be closer to eighteen. When Julian gets to campus, he will be almost two years older than Romeo was during his freshman season in South Bend. For anyone who has played any sport as a teenager, there isn't anyone who wouldn't say they were a lot more physically stronger and mature when they were eighteen as opposed to sixteen.
Julian is a lot more likely to stay at the same position during his career
They might play the same position now, but Romeo had a much tougher transition than Julian should have when he starts playing college football.
Romeo, like Julian, played with his hand in the ground as a defensive lineman in high school. Romeo had to make the adjustment to playing outside linebacker when he got to Notre Dame in Bob Diaco's 3-4 defense before switching back to play end in Brian VanGorder's 4-3 defense. It's not as easy of an adjustment as a lot of people assume it will be for many players and for someone like Romeo, it more than likely hindered his development at both linebacker and end.
Julian plays defensive end for his high school and is going to come in and play the weakside defensive end at Notre Dame. Even if Notre Dame switches coordinators during his career, chances are that Notre Dame will not be moving back to playing a 3-4 given the recruits they are targeting and the players who will be on the roster. He can get comfortable putting his hand in the ground and utilizing that great first step he has.
Depth at defensive end is much deeper than outside linebacker back in 2012
When Romeo was a freshman, there were only four other scholarship outside linebackers on the roster. Provided there aren't any career ending injuries or transfers at the position, there will be at least seven scholarship defensive ends on the 2016 roster and that does not include any other potential ends they are likely to bring in with Julian. They are still recruiting several other players at the position and adding a couple of more players at the position seems like it could definitely happen.
Because of all of those other players on the roster, the chances of Julian redshirting if he's not ready to play a significant role for Notre Dame are going to be pretty high. That wasn't the case with Romeo. Even though he was young and probably could have used a year to get stronger and used to playing a new position, there wasn't much choice in the matter because there weren't nearly as many options in front of him at the position.
Usually I use these posts to break down individual plays or traits from recent Notre Dame commitments. I planned on doing that for Julian and he has plenty of traits to be excited about. I planned on showing the great speed and awesome effort he plays with that makes him a great chase player versus the run. I wanted to show his awesome first step and how that allows him to win as a pass rusher even though he hasn't quite developed true pass rush moves other than just being a better athlete than the players who are trying to block him. He has fantastic tools to work with and I'm really excited to see how he develops at Notre Dame.
I'm not blind to things he needs to improve on either. I know he needs to add weight and get stronger. I know he needs to develop a consistent punch to go with his first step to use his length a lot better than he does now. I'm definitely aware that he needs to work on keeping his pad level down all the time as well.
What excites me about Julian Okwara's future as a defensive end at Notre Dame though, is that he is going to have advantages that his older brother didn't have when he came to Notre Dame.
That gives him better odds to become a bigger impact player than his brother is/was at the college level and with the kind of raw talent that I see in Julian, I really like his chances.