Every recruiting class has them: The household names who are tracked breathlessly, who can send a fan base into a whirlwind with one cryptic tweet, who become water-cooler (ie, message board) fodder because of two things: They’re really damn good – and they’re uncommitted. As the 2023 recruiting cycle kicks into another gear, 247Sports is profiling a slew of these players in the War Daddy series as our analysts handicap far-and-wide recruiting battles and tell you why these players matter on a national scale.
Braintree (Mass.) Thayer Academy’s Samson Okunlola, a five-star prospect and the No. 3 offensive tackle in the industry-generated 247Sports Composite, has a bundle of offers but has made only a handful of visits.
The 6-foot-6, 295-pound Okunlola has a plethora of offers and he plans to trim his list to five schools in early June and then begin official visits.
Although none are set yet, the No. 1 player in Massachusetts in the 247Sports Composite said he will make three or four officials in June and one or two in the fall.
It means a decision late in the process for Okunlola, whose fall visits will be limited because Thayer Academy plays its games on Saturdays.
Here’s our handicapping of this recruitment which includes and sift through a large list of top schools to narrow down the true contenders for Okunlola.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State is one of the few schools Okunlola got out to see, and getting him on campus for an official visit is a strong possibility. He was at Penn State in late January and got a look at the campus and met with the coaching staff. He has a strong relationship with offensive line coach Phil Trautwein, who has strong ties to New England and Thayer Academy from his days as Boston College’s offensive line coach. The Nittany Lions could have had Okunlola’s brother, Samuel Okunlola (signed with Pitt) in the class of 2022, and enhanced their chances with Samson but ultimately wound up not bringing Samuel on an official visit. Location, Big Ten football and alumni pipeline all are strong for the Nittany Lions.
Georgia is one of the programs Okunlola knows pretty well given the recruitment of his brother. Samuel took an official visit to campus last June and was able to get an inside look at the program, which also allowed Samson to get a taste of what Georgia has to offer. With the Bulldogs winning the national title last season and by producing NFL players, it certainly is a school Okunlola is giving a strong look to. One thing to continue to work at, though, is the relationship with offensive line coach Stacy Searels, who came on board after the season after being at North Carolina. That relationship has to continue to develop.
Getting a look at LSU is important to Okunlola, who has been doing his research since Brian Kelly left Notre Dame for Baton Rouge, La. Kelly and his staff were recruiting Okunlola to Notre Dame, but offensive line coach Brad Davis could be a difference maker for Okunlola. He has a strong relationship with him and he likes the fact Davis has been a long-time offensive line coach who developed his share of NFL players. The lure playing in the SEC is always strong for northeast prospects. If you are looking for a dark horse in this recruitment, keep an eye on the Bayou Bengals.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State is a perennial contender for the college football playoff, develops a bundle of talent for the NFL, and offensive line coach Justin Frye has a strong reputation and ties to the New England after spending five years at Boston College. Okunlola likes the idea of playing at a blue blood program so Ohio State is in the conversation, and he plans to get to campus in the summer. If that happens, it will immediately push Ohio State into the conversation when it comes to a college destination, but he has to get to campus first for those discussions to have teeth.
Notre Dame Irish
With what Notre Dame has done in building the No. 1 class in 2023 and with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand part of first-year coach Marcus Freeman’s staff, do not overlook the Irish. The academics, the idea of what the degree means on a national level after graduation and playing at a prestigious school are all things that could resonate with Okunlola. However, that he did not get to campus when he was at Michigan and Michigan State in March is something the Irish will have to overcome. Getting him to set an official visit could push the Irish into the top tier of contenders when this recruitment heats up with visits.
Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State does not land many five-star prospects from outside the region but the Spartans are firmly in the mix with Okunlola. He visited campus in March, which is a big deal given the low number of visits he made and he has a strong connection with offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic, who has landed offensive linemen from the northeast while at North Carolina and Michigan State. During his visit, Okunlola hit it off with coach Mel Tucker as well, and the Spartans are doing a very good job of continuing to recruit Okunlola. Michigan State may not be on the tip of the tongue when considering Okunlola’s recruitment, but the Spartans are definitely one of a long shots to keep an eye on.
Michigan hosted Okunlola on a visit in March on the same trip he went to Michigan State. He did not get to see a spring practice because it was a late add to his schedule on his way to Michigan State, but he spent a lot of time with the coaching staff, and he bonded well with offensive line coach Sherrone Moore. The relationship has continued to develop but the Wolverines need to get him back on campus of an official visit before they are considered a serious player. Other schools have an advantage at this point, but there is plenty of time for Michigan to make a move.
Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M has a recruiting presence nationally, and it had plenty of success recently in New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York, but New England is different and the Aggies have not been a factor there. So why are they on the list? Well, offensive line coach Steve Addazio has major ties to the region. He was Boston College’s head coach From 2013-19, and he knows the high school coaches well. He also is known as a major developer of offensive line talent, and that intrigues Okunlola. If he gets to campus this summer, the Aggies turn into a major contender.
Oregon is often mentioned by prospects on the east coast and the desire to visit is always strong because the program is known for awesome facilities and the latest in gear, but there is more to it for Okunlola. He made a connection with new coach Dan Lanning from his time at Georgia. When Okunlola was on campus last summer, Lanning was the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator. Also, offensive line coach Adrian Klemm joined the staff after spending time in the NFL, and he is considered a strong recruiter. Oregon has ground to make up, and a visit could help the process in a huge way.
There has not been much talk about Florida and Okunlola despite it being one of the schools he visited. He was on campus in early June, which has significance because that is when the NCAA allowed prospects to visit after more than a year of visit shutdowns because of the pandemic. A big reason for the quietness with the Gators was the change in coaching staffs, and Florida told Okunlola his offer still stood in early February. It is the SEC, Okunlola knows the campus and coach Billy Napier and his staff can put the work in to get Okunlola back on campus. The Gators are speaking with Okunlola, so do not rule them out.
How serious are the Pittsburgh Panthers in Okunlola’s recruitment? Do not be surprised to see him pop up on campus in June, late July or in the fall for a variety of reasons, and the biggest one being his brother, Samuel Okunlola, is a freshman at the school. Aside for that, the Panthers are doing a nice job of staying in contact with him and his relationship with offensive line coach Dave Borbely is good. Also, Pittsburgh is coming off an ACC title after winning the conference championship and continue to push the fact they develop NFL players on the line of scrimmage. The Panthers are not at the forefront of the recruitment, but…