The Terps’ staff continues to mine the ranks for a 2018 tight end, and one hybrid type has taken a liking to the program. Hillgrove (Powder Springs, Ga.) athlete Chingoziem Okonkwo landed his second power-five offer from Maryland in March and has since been in touch with UMD-area recruiter Walt Bell and tight ends coach Pete Lembo. Bell has been though Hillgrove to see the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Okonkwo and let him know he’s a priority recruit.
“Coach Bell has been saying he really wants me and has been telling me how he likes me as a hybrid receiver and tight end. He said my skills would really fit what they’re trying to do there,” said Okonkwo, who has offers from UMD, Georgia Tech, Navy, Troy and Georgia Southern. “He said with the offense I run in high school now, I’d come in and fit perfectly at Maryland. He likes athletic, flexible tight ends and doesn’t want me for a traditional tight end role. So it sounds like a good option and like I could potentially be a fit there.”
Okonkwo has not been able to visit College Park, Md., yet but plans to this summer. He said he and his mother are discussing when they’ll have time to drive north.
“I want to get up there to check the campus out, see how I like it here and just meet all the coaches,” Okonkwo said. “I’d like to see if it’s a place where I’d like to continue my education and football career. I already know it has a great academic reputation, which is important to me, so I’ll be looking into that. And I like what Coach Bell and Coach Lembo have told me about the program, the campus, what they’re building there and things like that. So now I want to get up and see it for myself.”
The Terps are still be one of Okonkwo’s top offers, which is part of the reason he’s so intrigued. But the Georgian has been generating interest on the trail during the spring evaluation period. Additionally, his perfromance the Nike Opening New Jersey opened some eyes.
“I haven’t picked up any new offers, but a lot of coaches have been in contact with me and have been through to see a practice. Some are saying they’re coming back too, so I guess they could be close to offering,” Okonkwo said. “Maryland has already offered, but they’ve been through, and then Memphis, Cincinnati, Troy, Michigan, Michigan State, Auburn, Tennessee and Georgia Tech have all been here.
“Michigan State, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Memphis, Stanford they’ve been talking to me, But right now I’d say Maryland, Georgia Tech and Troy are in touch the most and are pushing the hardest.”
Of course, the Jackets are the hometown school and have hosted Okonkwo on several occasions. They were also the very first major offer for the Powder Springs native.
“I really like what the coaches there are telling me right now,” Okonkwo said. “It’s a great school. I already knew a lot already, but it’s great how the coaches have been explaining even more in-depth about it. I like the offense there and how they’d use me too. Plus it’s close to home, which is always a good thing, although location doesn’t matter that much to me.”
Okonkwo, who hasn’t taken any trips this spring, should be returning to Tech at some point. He also wants to head back to Georgia and hit Mississippi State since those coaches have been in touch, as well as visit Stanford, USC and UCLA when he’s in California to see family this summer.
As far as a decision timeline is concerned, Okonkwo wants to commit to a school sometime during the fall. He said he’d like to take at least a couple officials before ending his recruitment.
“The main things I’m looking for are the life on campus and if I can see myself fitting in there, the educational side of the school, and also if the football program fits me,” said Okonkwo, who claims no early standouts and is content to take a deliberate approach. “I kind of want to take officials so I can get a real feel for a school before committing.”