14 in 14: OLB Romeo Okwara

IrishEyes.com continues its "14 in 14" series, which profiles each of the freshman enrolling this month at Notre Dame. It is running for 14 successive days, and the latest player on the list is Ardrey Kell High (Charlotte, N.C.) defensive end/outside linebacker Romeo Okwara.

Throughout Romeo Okwara's recruitment, two terms thrown around were "athletic" and "raw."

They are also the two words that explain why the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Okwara could play in the fall, or wind up red-shirting as an outside linebacker or defensive end.

"I'm expecting to go up there and compete and try my hardest to get on the field," the former Ardrey Kell High (Charlotte, N.C.) standout said. "I think it's going to be great competition.

There's players that have been there for years and been playing there, so they really know what they're doing. It's going to be tough there with the experienced players but you just have to go there and compete."

Okwara is coming off a senior season in which he registered 76 tackles, including 14 sacks and 27 tackles for loss. He was also credited with 18 quarterback pressures and could give the Irish speed and power off the edge.

However, Okwara is young. He will turn 17 on Sunday, and his coach, Adam Hastings, has repeatedly said Okwara is raw and would benefit by red-shirting.

"I'm going in there with the mindset that I want to play, but I really wouldn't mind red-shirting," Okwara said. "I don't really mind that at all."

Okwara knows football won't be the only adjustment he needs to make when he enrolls next week.

"I speak to a lot of people I know in college, and it's a lot harder than it is in high school," he said. "You have to schedule your time well, manage your time well for studies and football."

In either case, Okwara won't be outworked. When the season ended, Okwara continued to hit the weight room and he followed the workout plan set up by Notre Dame, and it helped him add 15 pounds while trimming fat.

"I'm a lot stronger," Okwara said. "I feel I put a lot of muscle on since the season ended. There's a lot of running. I've been in shape since the season was over. It was tough but you have to get through it."

Like most freshmen, Okwara acknowledged nervousness and anxiety about moving on to college, but the close relationship of the 2012 class should help.

"There's a little bit of everything," Okwara said. "I just can't wait to be up there. They told me to show up there in the best shape I could possibly be and get ready to work.

"We have a pretty good bond. We talk to each other and we've met each other on visits. It's great, especially in an environment like college. It's good to have a football team to go in so you know people and they have the same interests."

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