Okakpu Ready to Compete

To put it mildly, North Carolina will add a solid group of linebackers to their roster with the 2008 recruiting class. Ebele Okakpu was the first of that group to orally commit to the Tar Heels' coaching staff – and on Wednesday morning he made it official.

"That just means there's going to be more competition when we get to the school," Okakpu said. "I think competition is good. Everyone will have to work their way for playing time and to start."

Okakpu, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker from Roswell (Ga.), will compete for time at the WILL spot in UNC's 4-3 scheme.

"Coach Thigpen said he'll probably see me at the weakside linebacker," Okakpu said. "He said if I work hard enough I could have a chance to start. They lost some starters to graduation."

For Roswell, Okakpu started at middle linebacker the past two seasons. He was the center piece of a defense that helped win the GHS 5A state title his junior season. On the year he recorded 91 tackles including three sacks.

During his senior season, Roswell fell a couple of games short of repeating. However, Okakpu's production picked up as he scored his first touchdown – on an interception return. He recorded a second interception and collected 151 tackles.

With his high school football career complete, Okakpu is preparing for his collegiate career.

Although his signing Wednesday was uneventful, Okakpu is aware of the ramifications of his decision.

"It's not as big of a deal as some of these guys that had to make their final decision," Okakpu said. "I didn't make the decision on the spot. This was one that I made before.

"My mom told me it's the first major decision of my life that I'm making."

Okakpu verbally committed to UNC during an August unofficial visit to Chapel Hill. He selected the Tar Heels over scholarship offers from Clemson, Auburn, Georgia, Louisville, Miami, Mississippi, Purdue, South Carolina, and Virginia Tech, among others.

"I think it was all the people that I met there [that really sold me on UNC]," Okakpu said. "Most of the people were nice people, they were genuine. I just really liked the people that I met there."

Okakpu says he's already qualified under the NCAA Clearinghouse's sliding scale.

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