Berk's Breakdown: James Onwualu

We continue our detailed reviews of each member of Notre Dame's 2013 recruiting class with a trip to St. Paul, Minnesota for a look at James Onwualu.


HT – WT – SPEED: Listed at 6-foot-1, 185-pounds, James Onwualu has a thick body especially in his legs. The speed is there for Onwualu to compete at the college level at the wide receiver position as he's able to get separation, and if given an inch, able to accelerate and make a short route a long completion.

QUICKNESS – AGILITY – BALANCE: Watching Onwualu on film does not do him justice when looking at his abilities in these three areas. On film it looks as if Onwualu struggles with his initial quickness. However, watching him in a camp setting you get a true feel for his quickness at the line of scrimmage as he shows the ability to beat talented defensive backs with his first few steps. Overall Onwualu is above average in his agility and balance.

STRENGTH: While listed at only 185-pounds, Onwualu looks thicker and shows above average strength for a wide receiver. He should be able to use this advantage in the Irish offense as there are always a spot in a Brian Kelly offense for a player with this kind of build.

BODY FLEXIBILITY: This is one area that is hard to see on film but during our evaluation during a recent camp we came away feeling some work is needed in this area, especially in the hip area. When running routes Onwualu at times looks stiff when turning his body to make a play on the ball. This is something we fully expect Irish strength coach Paul Longo to be able to correct when Onwualu gets on campus.

PRODUCTION: On film he's a player capable of making things happen as a running back and wide receiver. In both our live and film evaluations we came away feeling the skill set is there for a player to achieve a high level of production.


Productive player at the high school level as a running back who at times lines up as a receiver, Onwualu needs work on polishing his route running skills. However, his ability to track the ball in the air is special.

Several big plays on his highlights are broken plays where defenders over pursue allowing him to use his speed and elusiveness to turn nothing into something big.

While at times it's easy to see the reasons for a player making a position change at the college level, it will be interesting to see how well Onwualu makes the transition to playing wide receiver full-time.

Overall we like Onwualu as an athlete and can see why the Irish pursued him early and are excited about his pledge. A hard-nosed player, Onwualu makes things happen. While it may not be pretty, it is effective. He's also a safe recruit as the Irish can always look at moving him back to running back if needed.


One thing Onwualu has shown early is his desire and willingness to be a leader on and off the field. Other pledges and those still being sought by the Irish often speak of their growing relationship with him and Malik Zaire.

The other impressive part of Onwualu is his desire to test himself against the best and improve. At each event he attends he has no problem seeking out the top defensive backs and testing his skills. This will serve him well once he arrives on campus and his full attention is pointed to being a receiver.

While some may feel Onwualu could be ready to push for early playing time when he arrives on campus, I'll take a more reserved look at him being an early contributor. Look for Onwualu to add some more weight to his frame and end up playing in the 200-210-pound range before all is done Top Stories