CoachSpeak: Hastings Breaks Down Okwara

Romeo Okwara

Ardrey Kell High (Charlotte, N.C.) defensive end Romeo Okwara committed to Notre Dame on Sunday. Today, upon returning to the country, Knights coach Adam Hastings spoke to IrishEyes.com about what Irish fans can expect from Okwara, how he fits into the defense, which position he was recruited to play and why Notre Dame was the right choice.

Romeo Okwara was recruited to play outside linebacker at Notre Dame and his ability to get the quarterback in the Irish's 3-4 scheme should be accentuated.

However, it is his work ethic on the field, in training and in the classroom that stands out to Adam Hastings, who coaches Notre Dame's latest pledge at Ardrey Kell High in Charlotte, N.C.

"He's a heckuva player," Hastings said. "The kid is just a worker. He's a quiet kid. He puts his nose to the grindstone. He's very athletic. He's good, and he just turned 16 earlier in the month, so he's very raw.

"You talk about potential and projecting because of that, and he's going to project to be a very good player."

The 6-foot4, 225-pound Okwara committed to Notre Dame on Sunday, with the news coming as little surprise to Hastings, who was out of the country until Wednesday.

"I wasn't surprised," Hastings said. "Notre Dame is a great institution. My cousin is actually an assistant baseball coach (Joe Hastings) there. I know about the athletic program, and the education of the school.

"I think it's a great fit for him, and the great thing about it is when he walks out of there, whether or not he plays at the next level, he'll have a top-of-the-line education."

Okwara, who plays defensive end for the Knights, made 70 tackles, had nine sacks and blocked a field goal as a junior. He also spots a 3.5 grade point average.

"I know they're looking at him as an outside linebacker," Hastings said. "I think he's rangy enough. I think he moves well enough to be able to do that. He's a long-armed kid and he has great extension. He does a great job using his hands. He's good in space.

"I think he's going to have learn a little bit, but he's a smart kid and picks things up real well and he's a student of the game. I think he'll pick it up faster than most do."

Will Okwara be able to pressure the quarterback?

"Oh, 100 percent," Hastings said. "He's going to be able to rush the passer. That's going to be a strong point."

Okwara's family moved from Nigeria to the United States five years, and he took to football quickly. He is a tireless worker in the gym and studies the game.

"It's going to be hard to out-work him," Hastings said. "(Academics) were the biggest thing he was looking at. His father is still an engineer in Nigeria, so that was one thing he was looking at; which school gives him the best opportunity to continue to follow in the footsteps of his father in that profession."

So, what does Okwara need to improve on?

"He needs to continue to work hard and be consistent and getting used to standing up in a coverage position and knowing what to," Hastings said. "That's going to take some time."

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