A relatively quiet commitment and reclassification gave Tennessee a freak athlete that they can mold over the next couple of years. Emmanuel Okoye, a four-star prospect who was discovered at an NFL Africa camp, committed and signed with the Volunteers back in May.
Okoye is a former basketball player who was given the opportunity to learn the game of football at London’s NFL Academy. Armed with a 6-5, 230 pound frame, Okoye could land on either side of the ball. Tennessee has opted to put his 7-foot-2 wingspan to work at the tight end position, at least to start.
“Yeah, Emmanuel is one of the most pure athletes I’ve ever seen in my life,” Tennessee tight end Jacob Warren said. “Being completely real, the way he runs, the way he jumps, cuts and move. Everything about him is super athletic, super twitchy.”
Okoye, just 18 years old, was ranked as the 30th edge prospect in the class of 2023, per 247Sports. Frankly, trying to rank Okoye based on what you see now is tough to do. This is a guy with big time upside, who just hasn’t played much football. But based on his frame and obvious athletic upside, putting him in the right hands could turn him into a star.
Tennessee tight ends coach Alec Abeln is the guy with the first crack at the job, getting some help from veterans of the position Jacob Warren and McCallan Castles.
“A guy that hasn’t been playing football for a long time so needs to kind of develop in the way of — in football there’s kind of a different language you talk,” Warren continued. “He doesn’t quite understand maybe yet, but we’re trying to bring him along, teach him that this is exactly what this means. When he does this, you do this. Different things like that that he needs to develop a little bit more for him to be right before you want him.”
Don’t expect to see much from Okoye anytime soon. A redshirt season is likely on the way for him, but a lot of learning will happen between now and 2024. With Warren and Castles on the way out after this year, the door will be open for some playing time a year from now.
Expect Okoye to be one of the more intriguing storylines of the 2024 spring.