The Huskers’ search for defensive linemen in the 2021 recruiting class has taken them all over the country. Yet there is a prospect three hours away that might be the highest priority defensive end this cycle. Kansas City 3-star (HV Rating: 86.3) defensive end Tobechi Okoli recently released him top eight schools which included Nebraska.
I will be focusing on these schools moving forward. I am very grateful to every college and coach that has recruited me up to this point.@MizzouFootball @kstatefootball @HuskerFBNation @OU_Football @UKFootball @AuburnFootball @GeorgiaFootball @UMichFootball pic.twitter.com/7Q8T70Kn5p
— Tobechi Okoli🇳🇬 (@OkoliTobechi) May 16, 2020
I spoke with his Lincoln College Prep head coach William Lowe and defensive coordinator Michael Rose-Ivey. I was able to get their thoughts on Okoli’s game, their relationship with Nebraska and more. Both couldn’t say enough good things about the type of young man that Okoli is.
“I think first and foremost with Tobe, he's a hell of a kid,” Rose-Ivey said. “He comes from a Nigerian immigrant background so he has that humbleness to himself that is kind of unique to people that have been in those types of situations. He's a kid that get if you get 11 type of those kids where when you say, 'Hey Tobe, I need you to do this' and it's, 'Yes, Coach.' You know he's just [a] very coachable kid, a very good young man.”
Rose-Ivey thinks that Okoli has an NFL type of pedigree. When you combine his potential on the field, his demeanor off the field and his work ethic, it makes him an elite prospect. He’s also one of the toughest kids on the team too. He played through an injury last season that his coaches did not even know about.
“A lot of people didn't know that last year, he played throughout the whole season basically from the third game with a sports hernia,” Rose-Ivey said. “We didn’t know about it. He just had complained that he had some cramping pretty much every game. His film is probably 50 or 60% of what I think is what he's going be this upcoming season. He's still learning the game which is always great for coaches because coaches are in the business of developing.
“You get a big lump of clay like that where you can mold and develop really to what you want. He hasn't really played football so you're not really having to break down bad habits but building the foundation.”
Okoli’s coaches have been working with him on becoming more vocal with his teammates. He's not a vocal kid by nature but he's a kid that has a presence when he enters a room since he stands at 6-5 and 250 pounds.
“He doesn't get caught up in a lot of things that other high school kids get caught up in,” Lowe said. “He's not on his phone a lot. He's not on social media a lot. That is something that Nebraska coaches would say as well. He's really a different kind of recruit. He said the two things he's focused on when he's picking colleges is number one who can get him to the NFL. And number two who has the best academic support.”
Both Lowe and Rose-Ivey say that they have a good relationship with Nebraska’s coaching staff. Rose-Ivey is in a unique position since he played at Nebraska. He tries to keep that separate from helping his guys get recruited.
“I try to keep myself in a neutral position with all the guys that are being recruited,” Rose-Ivey said. “I definitely don't want to seem biased. I won't push them or pressure them into certain situations with any school. I want to make sure I'm giving everyone the real 100% authentic take on certain school. Even playing there going up there I try to make sure that that they're getting the best information. I don't want them to pick a school because somebody else is telling them how great this place is. Go see for yourself.”
Okoli’s parents have also done a good job of managing the recruiting process. This is all new for them and they aren’t that familiar with the sport. Okoli has only played football for two years, both coaches feel like the sky is the limit for the defensive end.
“I think he's going be a guy that gets to the right place and gets developed,” Rose-Ivey said. “When he's around a family atmosphere where guys are going take care of him and show him how to be a student athlete plus maintain and manage the time he's going to be a kid that NFL scouts are going to love.
“His potential is through the roof.”
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.