One of the top targets on the board for Notre Dame in 2022 is Pleasant Hill (Iowa) Southeast Polk standout Xavier Nwankpa.
XAVIER NWANKPA PROFILE
Hometown: Pleasant Hill, Iowa
High School: Southeast Polk
IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 100 caliber prospect)
Upside Grade: 5.0
Offers: Notre Dame, Clemson, Ohio State, LSU, Oklahoma, Florida, USC, Texas A&M, Oregon, Penn State, Texas, Michigan, Florida State, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Iowa State, Kansas State, Louisville, Michigan State, Kentucky, Minnesota, Arizona State, Illinois
Recruited By: Marcus Freeman, Mike Mickens, Chris O'Leary
Although not quite as long, Nwankpa reminds me a great deal of current Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. He's the true modern day safety; he can play centerfield, he's a major force in the alleys, he's a quality run defender, he grades out extremely well in man coverage and he's incredibly productive.
He's tall, long and his range is truly outstanding. At times Nwankpa doesn't look like he's running all that fast, but his long strides and acceleration allow him to close on routes and close on ball carriers in a hurry.
Nwankpa is a smooth and fluid athlete that shows top-notch foot quickness and balance. His change of direction is impressive, and Nwankpa's ability to plant his foot and quickly explode downhill makes him a major weapon against the run and also allows him to quickly drive on routes. Nwankpa will need to clean up his footwork, but he shows the agility, flexibility and acceleration to open and run at a high level.
What makes Nwankpa such a tremendous safety is that he's exceptionally productive. I was surprised how often he got his hands on the football at the prep level. My surprise wasn't that a top player was productive, more so my surprise was watching specific plays and saying to myself, "No way he gets to that one," and then his acceleration would take over and he'd get to the ball and either break it up, pick it off or drill the receiver in order to dislodge the ball.
It's one thing to be long and athletic, but you can't be as productive on the ball as Nwankpa without also being a highly instinctive and smart football player. His high football IQ is another reason Nwankpa reminds me so much of Hamilton. Nwankpa's anticipation is special, and his route recognition is advanced for such a young player.
Nwankpa is also thin like Hamilton was in high school, but he's a well-defined player, he's a strong tackler and he's got some pop when he arrives at the ball.
5.0 - Elite player
4.5 - All-American caliber player
4.0 - Multi-year starter
3.5 - Key role player / Late career-starter
3.0 - Backup
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