What a Rush: Julian Okwara Returning to Notre Dame for Senior Season

Notre Dame got some bad news on Friday when Julian Love announced that he would leaving Notre Dame early for the NFL.  On Saturday the Irish got a much needed dose of good news when Julian Okwara announced he would be returning for his senior season to fuel the Notre Dame pass rush once again.

Julian Okwara broke out in 2018 as Notre Dame’s leader in sacks with 8.0 along with defensive tackle Jerry Tillery.  The junior from Charlotte, North Carolina has just 2.5 in his career prior to 2018.

With Okwara’s return now official, Notre Dame will have their top three defensive ends back for the 2019 season.  Khalid Kareem announced earlier this week that he too would be returning for a senior season instead of leaving for the NFL early.

It’s not clear where Okwara would have been drafted this year if he came out.  He was extremely productive as a DROP DE for Notre Dame this year, but he also played this season at a listed weight of just 241 lbs.  That would have been much to smaller for DE in the NFL so a future as an OLB would have been in his future.  And it still might when he eventually does come out because of his athleticism.

Okwara showed how versatile he is when he dropped into coverage against Michigan and recorded an interception from his defensive end position downfield and right at the sidelines.  It was the kind of play that defensive ends just don’t make.

By returning to Notre Dame for his senior season, he has the opportunity to have a monster season.  If Okwara puts in the work with Matt Balis this winter and packs on a few lbs to his still lean frame, he could put up some ridiculous numbers next fall.  In fact, Just Tuck’s single season sack record of 13.5 is very much in play for Okwara if he continues at his current trajectory.

Notre Dame greatly needed Okwara to return after losing Love and already having to replace Jerry Tillery, Jonathan Bonner, Tevon Coney, and Drue Tranquill. As is, the Irish defense still has to replace five defensive starters from a unit that ranked among the nation’s best this past season.

Defensive end now becomes Notre Dame’s deepest and perhaps strongest position.  Who ever saw that coming after years of struggling at the position.  With Okwara and Dealin Hayes back at DROP and Kareem and Ade Ogundeji, who is trending very much upward as well, on the strongside, the Irish are deep, talented, and athletic on the edges.

Notre Dame is still awaiting official word from Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin who both are believed to have requested NFL evaluations in December along with Okwara, Love, and Kareem.

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  1. MIles Boykin will forego his 5th year and seek an NFL team.
    What ever happened to highly recruited Mc Kinley?
    Will Javon McKinley, entering his senior season, ever get a chance at WR?

  2. Next year is very simple: we have to beat Georgia or nothing else will matter. Win all the rest and lose to UGA and everyone remembers 30-3 and 42-14. And rightly so.

  3. Swell. We will have a great defense, and an offense with no difference makers at QB,running back, or WR. Plus we lose Justin Yoon. I agree with Irish great Tim Brown’s comments about the need for speed.

  4. Being the realist that I am ND can go 12-0 next year and the year after and the year after that but they will not win the big game! And I hope this won’t happen but this years debacle might just have been all the CFP committee needed to keep ND out of the play-off’s and allow a 1-loss team over them!

    1. Wrong! Would never happen for two reason. First, this was an unusual year in the number of undefeated teams and if ND was to go undefeated it would be with maybe nobody else in that position. Second of all last year was a fluke that the formidable looking schedule turned easier than it looked. ND’s schedule is very formidable and even with one loss ND may have a shot. Don’t forget the prior year when ND was ranked number 3 with one loss until the debacle at Miami.

  5. Thus passes 2018 into the books…100 years after Knute’s first season…and we made a run (unlike KR’s first season, which was mundane). But then ND ran for 2 years without a loss – two undefeated teams!

    We’ll have a good team again next year, but it is not a good year to project going undefeated (though that is the goal). Open @Louisville, who we have no idea what to expect from. Then @Georgia Between the Hedges, Then @Michigan the Big House, Close season @Stanford The Farm (and I don’t remember the last time we won there). But I do project us undefeated in 2020, and capable of beating anyone, anywhere by then. It’s the way you build a program…one valid criticism of BK is that ND should have been going up after 2015, but it suddenly collapsed. But BK (1) took responsibility for it and (2) did the hiring needed to right the ship. What more should he do?

    Someone posted that 12-1 might be his ceiling. (That’s actually a pretty high ceiling). He has hit it twice. Well, he has 3 more years to win it all. I for one, will pull for him to do it, aside from my usual natural pulling for ND.

    BGC ’77 ’82

  6. Notredames defense this year was good and I believe will be good again next year. The offense is another story.Im not sure why Kelly’s never had a great offense like the elite Alabama Clemson Oklahoma Ohio State. Is it coaching recruiting both something else? Ohio State just hired an assistant from Ok State.Any chance Kelly can bring in a great offensive minded coach from one of these big 12 conference schools that’s scoring 40 and 50 points every week

      1. Agree Jeff. To win a national championship with consistent top 10 to 15 recruiting classes the only way to do it is by recruiting a super Heisman trophy level quarterback kyler Murray.. Tua haskins Mayfield trevor Lawrence etc.Time will tell on Jurkovic. one of the things that bothered me with Kelly is when he hired Chip Long a reporter asked him will this be 100%the Memphis offense.Kellys reply no it has to be 50% my offense.His reasoning was what if Long leaves in a year or 2 then we have to start all over again from scratch. I say that is wrong.Hire a great coordinator and give him total control like He did with Clark Lea.

  7. I think we will be excellent in the “D” line and the “D” backs will be ready to go as well (assuming all they continue to work in the off season the way they have been). Experienced linebackers may be hard to come by, but Crable played as an impact player at linebacker as a freshman if I remember right, at least toward the end of that year. I think Teo did too, as a freshman. We have redshirt and incoming guys with the talent…but it’s a hard position to play well without experience.

    BGC ’77 ’82

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