Ovie Oghoufo, Notre Dame’s Next Julian Okwara? Brian Kelly Thinks So

Brian Kelly sure knows how to set some high expectations on a rising sophomore who didn’t play a down as a freshman who’s learning a new position this spring.  After Notre Dame’s 6th practice of the spring on Saturday, the Notre Dame head coach said that he felt that Ovie Oghoufo, who recently moved to the defensive line, was going to be Notre Dame’s next Julian Okwara.

“He’s flashed to us as well,” Brian Kelly said when asked of the potential pass rusher.  “It’s easy to compare right? We try to find guys.  He’s a young Julian Okwara,” he would go on to add.

Considering Okwara contemplated leaving Notre Dame early for the NFL in the winter and is generating pre-season All American buss, that is some high praise considering Oghoufo has played the DROP position for all of six practices.

[Also Read: What we’ve learned on Defense after 6 spring practices]

“He’s very twitchy.  He’s probably, physically, a little bit stronger than Julian was at this time, but their on a similar career path.  We think he’s going to be the next guy to step in once Julian moves on.”

Coincidentally, on Saturday morning I was Slacking with Greg telling him how irrationally positive I was becoming about the Notre Dame defense.  Not necessarily for 2019 – not yet anyway – but for 2020 given all of the talent Notre Dame will return next year.  Greg’s response asked me who was going to play defensive end.  My response?

“I think Ovie is gonna be a damn good DROP by 2020.”

I stopped short of saying that he was going to be another Julian Okwara, but I certainly was thinking it.

While Ovie Oghoufo might lack Okwara’s elite height and length for the position – he’s 6’3″ compared to Okwara’s 6″5′ – it is becoming abundantly clear that he possesses the same athleticism off the edge.  If you need any convincing of that, take a look at this pass rush drill from the weekend that Oghoufo posted.

Now, running through a fellow rising sophomore linebacker – Bo Bauer – and through a starting offensive tackle are two totally different things. Given where he’s at in his development in the weight room and in learning the offense, it’s hard not to get excited about that kind of explosiveness on the edge of the defense.

Reports out of last week’s open practices were that reps like the one above from Oghoufo were not rare – they have becoming common place. Because of that, look for Ovio Oghoufo to get on the field on special teams at a minimum.

How much Oghoufo plays in 2019 in the base defense will be a big question.

He is currently listed at just 230 lbs on the spring roster, but then again Okwara is still listed at just 240 lbs and that didn’t slow him down in 2018.  Okwara did also play much more as a true freshman than Oghoufo. Okwara played in 11 games during that train wreck 2016 season.

Oghoufo didn’t play a down in 2018, but that didn’t stop him from making an impact.  He was named the Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year at the 2018 Echoes Awards Banquet.  He earned that honor playing as a linebacker last fall.  When spring practice started earlier this month, he moved to DROP.

Developing the heir apparent to Okwara at DROP now might not be #1 on Mike Elston‘s list but it’s got to be pretty darn high.  Building depth at DT behind starters Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa & Kurt Hinish is probably #1.  Notre Dame does lose it’s top three DE’s including it’s top two DROPs – Okwara and classmate Daelin Hayes – following this season though, so readying Oghoufo for 2020 is critical for the future.

You can never have enough pass rushers so if Oghoufo can pack on a few more lbs and continue to flash like he has been so far this spring, we might not have to wait until 2020 to get a glimpse of him in action.  Okwara collected 2.5 sacks as a sophomore in 2017.  Getting that kind of production out of Oghoufo in the fall would be a huge bonus for the Notre Dame defense.

Even if he still needs some more time to develop, it looks as though Notre Dame could have a successor to Okwara already on the roster.  Many felt that Okwara’s eventual replacement would be incoming freshman Isaiah Foskey or early enrollee NaNa Osafo-Mensah.  It sounds like Ovie Oghuofo will have something to say about that.

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One Comment

  1. JOK and OO, are they that good, or do we backs who defend better? Kidding (partly) as you said, rush has not been there last 2-3 years, but really would like to see better protection in the backfield out of our backs, esp blind side.

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