Okeke calls Vols 'second to none'

Tennessee has done a good job at finding talent and being the first to offer. Will it help in landing three-star defensive back Ikenna Okeke?

Since he’s been the head coach at Tennessee, Butch Jones has made a habit of scouting out talent around the state early and jumping at the chance to offer first. This proactive approach has helped the Vols land some of Tennessee’s most coveted prospects and kept many more interested well after other schools make a move.

It certainly helped with Smyrna safety Ikenna Okeke, who is juggling offers from Tennessee, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Purdue, and Pittsburgh just to name a few. The three-star prospect plans to visit to Louisville, Alabama, North Carolina and Wake Forest as well, but Tennessee’s jumpstart on the rest of the college football world puts it in an advantageous position as the junior prepares to make a decision.

“I was just excited,” Okeke told InsideTennessee. “First off, that was my first offer. That was a big one for me too, being an in-state offer. It was exciting.”

Okeke is being recruited by Tennessee defensive backs coach Willie Martinez, who keeps up with his potential new defensive back on a regular basis.

“It’s just a lot of staying in touch, where I stand with their school and stuff like that. (He) just talks to me and just keeping up.”

The safety with a 4.61 40-yard-dash time visited Knoxville three times last season for the Alabama, Kentucky and Florida games and said he likes the vibe surrounding the program as it looks to turn a corner in 2015. Growing up just two-and-a-half hours away in Smyrna, he already knew what to expect when he stepped foot on campus for the first time.

“I just knew that their home base, their fans, are probably one of the top fans I’ve seen in the country. It’s a team that’s on the rise, that’s one thing I knew about them,” Okeke said. “Now I still see them trying to get a lot of prospects and top recruits coming in, so that’s what I like about them.”

It appears the Vols will be locked in a battle with Notre Dame for the versatile defensive back’s talents. Okeke said coaches across the country have praised his ability to adapt to different positions — from linebacker to nickel defensive back — and he plans on visiting South Bend this summer after the Fighting Irish offered him a scholarship in March.

“Tennessee being my first off, in-state, that’s just going to be high regardless, and Notre Dame, that was one that was actually really high on my list too,” Okeke said. “Those two I’m really looking at a lot.”

The junior compiled 70 tackles and five interceptions last season and is looking to increase that number even more in 2015. Tennessee’s hands-on approach to the in-state talent could be key in landing him, as Jones and his staff found out when Okeke spoke of his past visits.

“It was great — second to none, actually,” he said. “I really look up to them. It’s easy to fall in love with Tennessee.”

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