SOUTH BEND, Ind. — As Notre Dame's front seven depth has been tested by a string of injuries, sophomore Romeo Okwara has entered the mix. And while his playing time has increased due to injuries to Sheldon Day and Ishaq Williams, coach Brian Kelly sees a nice positive to come from it.
"He needs to play football more," Kelly said. "He needs to get more playing time. When he plays more football, he's going to be fine."
Okwara has been needed all over the Irish front seven this year, playing his natural 'cat' outside linebacker, doing some cross-training at the 'dog' outside linebacker position and playing some five-technique with his hand in the ground. He said he think he's handled bouncing between positions well, and that mental battle been the biggest he's fought since coming to South Bend last year.
"He wasn't brought up as a young man that played a lot of football," Kelly said. "So each time that he steps on the field, it's new to him. "He wasn't blessed with the football instincts. He's learning about the game every day and he's making great progress every day. You can see him growing as a player."
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Okwara said he mainly played soccer growing up, but switched to football in seventh grade.
Okwara probably won't play the five technique -- with his hand in the ground, lining up over a tackle -- much now that Notre Dame's done facing option offenses. But Kelly likes him in nickel packages, and expects that's where he'll make an impact as the season winds down.
"We've seen him in our nickel package, and I think you'll continue to see that," Kelly said. "I think we feel more comfortable with him in our nickel fronts more than lining up against a big, physical offensive line like Pittsburgh."