NCF Nation: Kenny Okoro
This year, he decided to change that name.
Okoro will go by his given name, Chibuikem Okoro, in 2012.
“My parents are descendants from Nigeria,” Okoro said in a statement. “The name is pronounced ‘CHIBY-kem.’ It means ‘God is my strength.’ As a child, I shied away from using it. But over the past couple months, I’ve re-dedicated myself and gotten more in touch with my religious side. Having a name that means ‘God is my strength,’ I don’t know why I wouldn’t want to be called that.”
Okoro, a fifth-year senior, leads the team with 29 career starts. His 115 career tackles are second only to teammate Joey Ehrmann (121) in career stops.
Last year, Okoro started all 13 games at corner and ranked second on the team with nine pass breakups. He sealed Wake Forest’s 24-23 win at Duke last fall by intercepting Sean Renfree on the final play of the game. As a sophomore in 2010, Okoro led the team with five pass breakups and returned a blocked PAT for two points against Presbyterian, the first defensive two-point conversion in school history. As a redshirt freshman in 2009, Okoro intercepted Stanford’s Andrew Luck in the first quarter of Wake Forest’s 24-17 win over the Cardinal at BB&T Field.
Okoro has certainly accomplished enough for the Demon Deacons' defense that it's about time everyone got on a first-name basis with him.
Linemen: The depth here continues to be a priority on both sides. The decision of defensive end Max Holloway to declare early for the NFL draft was an unexpected loss, and tackle Dillon Quinn will be a senior. Offensively, the Eagles will have to replace two veterans and leaders in center Mark Spinney and guard Nate Richman.
Linebackers: All-American Luke Kuechly’s decision to leave early for the NFL draft was expected, but the staff is looking for about two or three more linebackers in this class.
Receivers: This was a young group to begin with, as Alex Amidon and Bobby Swigert were both true sophomores, but the staff could use one or two more in this class.
Linemen: The Tigers will lose three starters on the defensive line and three more on the offensive line from the 2011 ACC championship team. Center Dalton Freeman is a returning starter, but he will be a senior. Six players on the final two-deep depth chart on the offensive line were either seniors or graduate students in 2011, and four on the defensive line two-deep must be replaced.
Running back: Andre Ellington is entering his senior year, and while Mike Bellamy is back in school and in the good graces of coach Dabo Swinney, the future of the position is uncertain. Rod McDowell played well in the bowl game, and D.J. Howard has been a backup.
Defensive backs: The Tigers could start three seniors in the secondary in 2012: Xavier Brewer, Rashard Hall and Jonathan Meeks.
Kickers: The Tigers will lose punter Dawson Zimmerman, opening up an opportunity for a true freshman to play immediately.
Pick and choose: The Noles have built up enough depth that they can now be selective. Instead of building a class heavy on offensive linemen, Florida State can now pick and choose the best at each position. The Noles need at least one running back, one or two quarterbacks, a few offensive tackles, a linebacker to help replace Nigel Bradham and a safety or two.
Kickers: The Noles have big shoes to fill with the graduation of punter Shawn Powell, and kicker Dustin Hopkins is entering his final season.
Running back: This is a position where a true freshman could see some playing time this year. Justus Pickett returns, along with Brandon Ross, who redshirted last year.
Quarterback: The Terps ended the 2011 season with only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster in Danny O’Brien and C.J. Brown. Both will be juniors and nobody is behind them.
Cornerback. Maryland has to replace Trenton Hughes and Cameron Chism at cornerback, leaving Dexter McDougle the only one with any significant playing time.
Defensive line: The staff already has about six linemen committed and ends were a particular focus. Half of the linemen in the two-deep depth chart for the Belk Bowl were either juniors or seniors.
Secondary: This should be a strength for NC State in 2012, but the staff needs to prepare for the future here. Cornerback C.J. Wilson will be a senior, along with safeties Earl Wolff and Brandan Bishop.
Quarterback: Mike Glennon is already listed as a graduate student, and his backup, Tyler Brosius, redshirted this past season. The position is thin and the future uncertain behind Glennon.
Offensive line: The Deacs will lose four starters up front, but coach Jim Grobe has only played one true freshman there in 11 years. He has several redshirt freshmen and sophomores who are expected to fill in, but the staff wants to continue to build the depth at the position.
Tight end: Wake Forest will graduate its top two tight ends and will turn to two redshirt sophomores in Neil Basford and Johnny Garcia who have yet to catch a pass. It’s possible this could be a spot where an exceptional freshman could see playing time.
Defensive backs: The Deacs have to replace starting free safety Josh Bush and starting strong safety Cyhl Quarles. Cornerback Kenny Okoro will be a redshirt senior.
1. Florida State: The Noles have one of the best cornerback duos in the country in Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes. They combined for 33 passes defended last season, the most of any pair of cornerbacks in the nation. Mike Harris had 41 tackles and four picks as a reserve.
3. Maryland: The Terps return both starters in Cameron Chism and Trenton Hughes, who combined for 36 career starts. Chism is a strong cover corner who had 70 tackles and eight deflections last season. Hughes had nine pass deflections.
4. NC State: Both starters return in C.J. Wilson and David Amerson. Wilson had 46 tackles, two interceptions and six pass breakups, and Amerson had 57 tackles. Justin Byers and Gary Grant also have experience.
5. North Carolina: The Tar Heels lost some remarkable talent in their secondary, including cornerback Kendric Burney, but there is a lot of depth at the position. Jabari Price started four games last season, Charles Brown has 22 career starts but sat out last season, and Mywan Jackson and Tre Boston both have at least four starts each.
6. Boston College: The Eagles will miss DeLeon Gause, but Donnie Fletcher has 17 career starts, 56 tackles last season, and led the team with five picks. C.J. Jones played in 12 games as a backup last season with 16 tackles. Dominique Williams also saw some time and had four tackles, and true freshman Al Louis-Jean, who was the No. 9 cornerback in the nation as ranked by ESPN Recruiting, enrolled early.
7. Clemson: It’s a young group, as the Tigers had to replace Marcus Gilchrist and Byron Maxwell. Xavier Brewer had 10 starts with 50 tackles and two interceptions last season, Coty Sensabaugh had 31 tackles in three starts, and senior Mansa Joseph will also be competing for playing time with sophomore Martin Jenkins.
8. Virginia: The Cavaliers return both starters in Chase Minnifield and Devin Wallace, but Wallace was suspended and missed spring ball and is still suspended. Wallace had 38 tackles and six breakups last season. Chris Broadnax, Rijo Walker, Drequan Hoskey and Pablo Alvarez will all compete for playing time.
9. Miami: The Hurricanes have to replace both starters in Brandon Harris and Ryan Hill. Jo-Jo Nicholas moved to corner and Brandon McGee, who was the nickel back last season, will compete along with Lee Chambers, Keion Payne, Nathan Gholston and true freshman Thomas Finnie, who had a great spring.
10. Georgia Tech: The Jackets had to replace their entire secondary, including cornerbacks Mario Butler and Dominique Reese. They’ve still got several cornerbacks with experience in Rashaad Reid, who started 14 games in 2008 and 2009, Rod Sweeting (38 tackles, seven pass breakups, one interception), Louis Young (10 tackles), and Michael Peterson (six tackles, one pass breakup).
11. Wake Forest: The Deacs have a deep enough secondary that they can live without the experience of cornerback Kevin Johnson, who started five games last season but will sit out this season while academically ineligible. Josh Bush had 33 tackles and four pass breakups last season, Kenny Okoro is a rising star, A.J. Marshall has three starts and Dominique Tate returns after missing last season while on academic suspension.
12. Duke: Ross Cockrell is a returning starter and finished last season with 60 tackles and 10 passes defended. He was only a freshman but he tied for eighth in the ACC with passes defended with 10 in 12 games. Johnny Williams had four pass breakups last season.
"This is something that is totally unexpected, but feels great," Williams said in a prepared statement. "I have to give a lot of credit to the offensive line and the wide receivers and the fullbacks because they helped pave the way for a lot of the stats I got this year."
Williams tied the ACC season record with 19 rushing touchdowns. His 20 overall touchdowns set the league's scoring record for freshmen.
Williams has rushed for 1,538 yards this year, shattering the ACC’s freshman rushing record of 1,265 yards set last year by his teammate, Darren Evans, who is sitting out 2009 with a knee injury suffered in preseason practice. It is also the fourth-best single-season rushing total in ACC history.
Here are the final votes:
Rookie of the Year
Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech (34)
Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College (29)
Greg Reid, CB, Florida State (4)
Kyle Parker, QB, Clemson (4)
Steve Greer, LB, Virginia (3)
Conner Vernon, WR, Duke (2)
Kenny Okoro, CB, Wake Forest (2)
Kevin Reddick, LB, North Carolina (1)
Jacobbi McDaniel, DT, Florida State (1)
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
There was some progress in the ACC this spring, and each team got a little bit of help at certain positions. Here's a look at who found some help this spring and where:
BOSTON COLLEGE: Marcellus Bowman and Wes Davis are two safeties who should help make the Eagles' secondary one of the best BC fans have seen in recent years. Four players return to the secondary with starting experience.
CLEMSON: It's amazing what a year of experience can do, and the Tigers' offensive line needed it. The only direction for this group to go is up, and it started to do that this spring. All five starters return.
DUKE: The return of running back Re'quan Boyette will give the Blue Devils' running game a more potent punch. He could be a difference maker on the field this fall, and Duke will need him to be.
FLORIDA STATE: Leading rusher Antone Smith is gone, but FSU fans can rest assured Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones can carry the load for the Noles. Both had several breakaway runs this spring.
GEORGIA TECH: On a defense that lost its leaders up front, defensive end Derrick Morgan and safety Morgan Burnett established themselves as the new captains of the ship this spring, and they should be the Jackets' top two defenders.
MARYLAND: Phil Costa helped ease the transition of the graduation of longtime leader Edwin Williams at center. The Terps lost three starters up front and have four players in new positions, but Costa proved he can be the new leader of the group.
MIAMI: This "got help" award goes to new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. He had an immediate impact on the offense this spring and has Jacory Harris' full attention.
NORTH CAROLINA: Da'Norris Searcy and Melvin Williams gave the staff some confidence in life without Trimane Goddard. Searcy played well in the Meineke Car Care bowl as a fifth defensive back and played with confidence this spring.
NC STATE: Mike Glennon answered the distress signal at backup quarterback, a position that had been exposed far too many times in the past. Glennon completed 23 of 38 passes for 272 yards and one touchdown in the Kay Yow Spring Game.
VIRGINIA: The return of Jameel Sewell at quarterback and addition of Vic Hall no doubt helped the Cavaliers. At this point last year, they didn't have one quarterback who had any starting experience. Now they've got three.
VIRGINIA TECH: Confidence grew in the linebackers this spring, and that's because of the efforts of Barquell Rivers and Jake Johnson. Bruce Taylor and Quillie Odom are still learning, but there was progress at this position.
WAKE FOREST: Kenny Okoro and Josh Bush both proved to be dependable players at a position that just lost Alphonso Smith. Okoro in particular stood out, but both of them got a lot of reps with Brandon Ghee out with an injury.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
You got to know some of them better than others this spring, but all of the following newcomers (in no particular order) established themselves as players' whose names you should remember come fall:
Virginia Tech TB Ryan Williams -- He quickly earned the spotlight with an 80-yard run on the first carry of his first spring scrimmage. In the spring game he had 10 carries for 85 yards, and two receptions for 66 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown on a middle screen.
Boston College TE Chris Pantale -- The 6-foot-5, 238-pound redshirt freshman from Wayne, N.J., had five catches for 45 yards - including a long of 17 yards in the spring game.
Florida State DE Brandon Jenkins -- He made plays every day, and probably had the most sacks of any of the Noles this spring. He also was constantly in the backfield. He probably won't start but may help replace some of the sacks Everette Brown took with him.
Maryland LB Demetrius Hartsfield -- The redshirt freshman is expected to be the starting Will linebacker in 2009. He's quick, athletic, and big enough (230 pounds) to be effective in the run game and yet fast enough to cover receivers coming out of the backfield. He was in the two-deep the second half of last season and nearly played, but held his redshirt. He ended a solid spring with seven tackles for the White team in the spring game.
UNC TB Jamal Womble -- He's a powerful runner built low to the ground who earned the No. 3 spot behind Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston. He was the leading rusher in the spring game with 50 yards on seven carries and caught three passes for 12 yards. He proved this spring he could give the starters a breather.
UNC LB Zach Brown -- He reportedly ran a 4.26 with the strength and conditioning staff last week. He will be the starter at outside linebacker now that Quan Sturdivant has moved inside to middle.
Duke QB Sean Renfree -- He earned the confidence of coach David Cutcliffe and some playing time this fall with his strong performance this spring behind starter Thaddeus Lewis. Renfree threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game.
Virginia WR Kris Burd and DB Rodney McLeod -- They're two players who showed the potential for breakout seasons. Burd saw action in all 12 games last year but caught only seven passes. With Kevin Ogletree gone, odds are that number increases.
McLeod was a true freshman last year and played almost exclusively in the nickel/dime packages from scrimmage. This year he's likely to be a starter at safety. He has great athleticism to complement h his football instincts.
Georgia Tech RB/SB Anthony Allen -- The junior transfer from Louisville is almost certain to figure into the crowded backfield this fall. He and Embry Peeples led all rushers in the spring game with 69 yards each.
Georgia Tech DL T.J. Barnes -- With three starters gone from last year's nine-win season, Barnes proved this spring he could become a dependable replacement. He had eight tackles, two tackles-for-loss and a forced fumble in the spring game.
Clemson QB Kyle Parker -- The dual sport athlete juggled his baseball responsibilities while competing with Willy Korn for the starting job, and wowed Tigers fans with his performance in the spring game. He completed 13-21 passes for 171 yards and a score, and also ran for a score.
NC State QB Mike Glennon -- He showed significant improvement this season and took advantage of the fact that starter Russell Wilson dedicated half of his spring to baseball. Glennon was 28-46 for 338 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in the spring game.
Wake Forest corner Kenny Okoro -- He's a long, tall athlete with the potential to replace Alphonso Smith. He made play after play this spring, tackles well and handles calls well. He'll continue to battle with Josh Bush this summer, but at the minimum will be used as a nickle back.
Miami WR Kendal Thompkins -- He's a smaller, speedy deep threat who caught two passes for 45 yards and has the potential to truly separate himself from the crowded group of receivers.