Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Okwara Hoping Added Preparation Pays Off In 2019

August 6, 2019

Notre Dame defensive end Julian Okwara enters his senior year as one of the nation’s premier pass rushers, but you’d never know if you talked to the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder.
The Charlotte native is locked in to improve on a big junior season and it starts with finishing plays.
“Slipping off tackles, missing sacks and running by the quarterback had to do with footwork,” explained Okwara. “I’ve been working on stuff like that. I definitely think my footwork is one of the bigger things. I want to get that reach around and my hips flipped to get in the proper player or anticipate where the quarterback is going to be.”
Anticipation is one of the areas Okwara has started to focus on with defensive line coach Mike Elston in the film room. Okwara wants to know tendencies of the quarterbacks on Notre Dame’s schedule in hopes of racking up more than his 8.0 sacks a year ago.
“That comes with getting in the film room with Coach Elston,” stated Okwara. “He does a great job. I’ve been with him the last couple days before we went home. He’s been working with me to make sure I’m watching film the right way and looking at the right things to improve my game.”
Okwara also has another voice in his ear in his brother, Romeo, who plays defensive end for the Detroit Lions. While the two try not to talk much football, Okwara’s big brother has made sure to keep the Notre Dame star in check mentally. 

“He’s pretty much happy with whatever I do,” said Okwara. “I have my personal goals and I’m harder on myself than he is. He doesn’t say much. We don’t really talk about football. We keep football as its own thing. During the season, he does talk to me about football stuff, but as long as my head is straight and I’m doing my thing by being a better person overall, he’s good with that.”
While he may be tough on himself, Okwara knows he can use last year as a building block for his final season in South Bend.
“It’s motivating and your confidence level rises,” Okwara explained. “There is a lot of stuff I missed or didn’t do. That is really what I’m working and focusing on. It’s a good thing to look back at it, but I have some stuff I need to improve my game on to make this team better overall.”
As for the first day of practice, Okwara was pleased with what he saw from the Irish, but knows August is a long month.
“The first day is always rough and things are flying around, especially for the younger guys,” Okwara said. “I think we did a good job of focusing on the task at hand and getting better with our technique. You can get lost on the first day, but I think we did a great job focusing on what we needed to do on the first day. We listened to the coaches and need to come back tomorrow and do the same thing.”

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