Alabama rarely goes outside of the United States to land a recruit. But they managed to not only flip three-star linebacker and Maryland pledge Justin Okoronkwo on Sunday, July 9, the Crimson Tide managed to score a verbal commitment all the way from Munich, Germany.
That was a bold move on the Tide’s part. And the relationship between the Tide and Okoronkwo began in the middle of June 2023, which included the German prospect chatting with head coach Nick Saban while on his visit.
It’s also rare Alabama would pursue a three-star talent in the era of recruiting rankings, as Alabama has developed a habit of chasing after the best four and five-stars the nation has to offer. Now, Okoronkwo’s head coach of the Nurnberg Rams dished out some bold statements about the underrated ‘backer going from Munich to Southeastern Conference country — delivering some bold predictions involving his star ranking and predicting when his playing time at ‘Bama will occur.
‘I’m Telling You Right Now’
Head coach Josh Alaeze didn’t shy from his strong beliefs that the towering 6-foot-3, 225-pound defender will be an instant impact player in Tuscaloosa.
Via his Twitter account, Alaeze posted: “@Okoronkw1Justin should be in serious five-star discussions after I finish breaking this film down tonight from his last 3 Games. It’s that good.”
How good? Alaeze, who also works as an athletic director, gave this stirring prediction about how Okoronkwo’s future will play out for the Tide.
“This kid will play early at ‘Bama,” Alaeze projected. “I’m telling you all right now.”
He then broke down sequences that point to the Munich prospect fitting in with the Tide’s culture.
‘Mr. Do it All’
In Alaeze’s mind, the Tide just landed “the biggest hidden gem in the world.”
“Mr. Do it All,” Alaeze called his defender. “Over 20+ TFL (tackles for a loss) in seven games and a 50+ yard Kick return average….at 6-foot-3, 225-pounds.”
Alaeze then added: “Bama got the biggest hidden Gem in the World. I stand strongly on that.”
Alaeze was reacting to a breakdown of his defender’s game conducted by Brett Greenberg of 247Sports, who covers the Tide. Greenberg pointed out Okoronkwo’s sideline to sideline speed, line of scrimmage prowess and ability to return kicks at his size as among the four major strengths he mentioned in his breakdown.
Current Speed Makes Him Faster Than All But 3 2023 LB Prospects, & Faster Than Top 3 Pick
How fast is Okoronkwo? He blazes the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds.
With that time, only three linebackers in the 2023 NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis ran a faster time: Owen Pappoe of rival Auburn (4.39 seconds), Trenton Simpson of Clemson (4.43) and Yasir Abdullah of Louisville (4.47). Dorian Williams of Tulane and Dee Winters of Texas Christian were the only ‘backers who matched the current 40-time Okoronkwo runs.
But even more stirring is this fact: Alabama’s top NFL prospect Will Anderson Jr., the league’s No. 3 overall pick, accelerated to a time of 4.6 in his 40 at the combine…meaning Okoronkwo is already faster than the first defender taken in the current draft class.
Alaeze also isn’t the only one with the bold predictions involving the rare international commit for ‘Bama. Brandon Collier of Premiere Prospects International Recruits (PPI Recruits), who specializes in finding collegiate homes for foreign players, is another who predicted early playing time for his latest prospect.
“He has some of the most elite numbers you’re going to see out of a guy that size and if he was at the NFL combine he’d rank top five in every drill at his position,” Collier shared to 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong on Sunday. “He’s a true middle linebacker but he has pass rush skills. He’s a physical prospect. I think he’ll play early.”
Lastly, Sharpe Sports called him “The No. 1 player from Germany” and a “terrifying linebacker.”