One On One with Okoli

Virginia Beach, Va., defensive lineman Chimaeze Okoli committed to Penn State a few weeks before signing day, after receiving several big offers after his senior season. We caught up with Okoli and his coach, Robert Jackson, to find out why Okoli had a breakout season and what kind of game he will bring to the Nittany Lions.

Virginia Beach, Va., defensive lineman Chimaeze Okoli was a late bloomer in recruiting this year. Okoli had a huge senior season for Salem High School and picked up late offers from Penn State, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Michigan State, and others. Now that Okoli has signed with the Nittany Lions, it is time to take a look at why he chose Penn State and what happened this year to bring his name across college coaches' desks late this year.

"I chose Penn State mostly because of the coaching staff," Okoli said. "They were really honest with me. Not that other coaches weren't, but there was something special about Penn State. To be honest, Penn State wasn't even my best visit, because my cousin was at Virginia Tech, but it was just something about them."

Okoli also commented on where he is, and where he wants to be as he enters at Penn State this summer. "Right now I am really trying to get my weight down so I can play defensive end," Okoli said. "I am 280-pounds now, but I hope to get down to 260 when I get to Penn State. It's all about work ethic. I know that I need to lose weight to play defensive end or I am going to go in as a defensive tackle. Other than that, I am working on my speed as well which should come as the weight comes off."

Okoli blew up in his senior season at Salem High School as he recorded 72 tackles, 15 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries including one returned for a touchdown. Okoli and his high school coach, Robert Jackson, commented on the reasons for his success. "I just got more athletic and really worked on my hands," Okoli said. "Chima's father took him to Nigeria when he was a junior," Coach Jackson said. "He missed most of the offseason training and didn't come back until the 4th game of the season in his junior year."

"This year, Chima was able to get a full offseason training under his belt and was really able to work on some things," Coach Jackson said. "He has a lot of upside because he has a lot that he can learn about the game yet. Chima has a quick first step and a naturally strong upper body. He is great with getting leverage on the offensive lineman and he really follows the ball well."

Coach Jackson also had some comments on where Okoli needs to improve to translate his success at the college level. "Chima has a lot about the game to learn," Coach Jackson said. "He is already strong, but he needs to be stronger to keep up with the college game. Chima really just overpowered everyone here, but you can't do that on the college level."

Okoli is looking forward to making an impact at Penn State and he will continue to work on his weight and speed this offseason.

Okoli's Salem High School is also the home to two outstanding prospects for next year's recruiting class. "We have a Nittany Lion in training in Lyndell Gibson," Okoli said. "He is a linebacker and he is all over the field." Gibson is a 6-foot-0, 230-pound linebacker who recorded 108 tackles, 14 sacks, 1 interception, and 3 forced fumbles last year at Salem. "We also have a running back in Kevin Whaley who is also interested in Penn State," Okoli said. Whaley is a 5-foot-11, 175-pound running back with 4.3-4.4 40 yard dash speed.

Whaley racked up 1,997 yards rushing and 39 touchdowns for Salem High School last season. Both Whaley and Gibson have offers from Virginia Tech and Kent State already. "I expect both Kevin (Whaley) and Lyndell (Gibson) to get offers from Penn State soon," Coach Jackson said. "Coach Bill Kenney and Coach Larry Johnson were down to talk about them already."

It appears that Okoli may be an asset not only on this year's class, but on next year's class as well. Look for more on Okoli this fall with the Nittany Lions and more on his teammate this coming year as both are expected to have numerous offers before it is said and done.


Fight On State Top Stories