The best way for Mike Tunsil to sum up LSU’s newest commitment is this: “He was the only kid willing to go against Travonte Valentine in practice,” Tunsil said with a laugh.
Highly regarded offensive tackle Chidi Valentine-Okeke committed to LSU on Thursday, a surprising commitment from a Nigerian native who’s ranked as a five star by at least one recruiting service.
Valentine-Okeke, a 6-foot-6, 306-pounder who now plays football in Georgia, becomes the Tigers’ 19th commitment of 2015 and moves LSU’s class from No. 10 to No. 8 in 247Sports’ composite team rankings.
Valentine-Okeke played his first year of football for Tunsil at Champagnat Catholic in Palm Bay, Florida. Valentine, LSU’s highly touted 2014 defensive tackle signee, was a senior in 2013 for Champagnat Catholic when Valentine-Okeke arrived.
The two, not related, went against one another in practice.
“Out of 10 times, he’d beat Travonte once,” Tunsil said. “He definitely learned a lot from Travonte, how to get tough and be tougher.”
Tunsil said he didn’t know details on how Valentine-Okeke ended up in America, but said he helped bring him here. He landed in the U.S. in the summer of 2013, Tunsil said. He played this past fall for Faith Baptist Christian Academy in Ludowici, Georgia.
Valentine-Okeke may be a risk to qualify academically, according to 247Sports. He must gain credit hours and improve his test scores, the site reported.
He can make his nonbinding verbal pledge official by signing with the Tigers on national signing day Wednesday.
Valentine-Okeke is ranked as a five-star prospect and the nation’s No. 22 overall player by 247Sports. He’s a four star in 24/7Sports’ composite rankings. He’s ranked No. 81 nationally by Scout and No. 87 by ESPN (both give him four stars), while Rivals gives him three stars and doesn’t have him nationally ranked.
Valentine-Okeke was also considering Alabama, Auburn and Georgia.
He’s a big get for a team that’s thin in offensive tackles. How big? Moments after the news of Valentine-Okeke’s commitment broke, LSU director of player personnel Austin Thomas tweeted, “HERE COME THE TIGERS!!!!!”
The commitment gives LSU five recruits who are ranked as five-star prospects by the various recruiting services. The others include cornerback Kevin Toliver II (enrolled at LSU in January), wide receiver Tyron Johnson of Warren Easton, Catholic running back Derrius Guice and Riverdale athlete prospect Donte Jackson.
Valentine-Okeke arrived in the U.S. at 270 pounds. He’s now 306, Tunsil said. He had not played football before arriving.
“Great kid. Hard-working kid,” Tunsil said. “The quickest learner I’ve ever met in life. Came over with a soccer and basketball background.”
Valentine, the 6-foot-3, 325-pound defensive tackle, is excited about beginning spring practice and being eligible next fall, Tunsil said.
The coach communicates with Valentine about “four to five times a week,” he said.
Valentine took a redshirt last season after the Southeastern Conference would not rule him eligible. Tunsil said Valentine is eligible for the 2015 season.
“He’s looking forward to it and pumped,” Tunsil said. “He’s cleared now.”
Valentine practiced with LSU during the fall but couldn’t play in games. He’s now like every other player, Tunsil said: If he continues to maintain a qualifying GPA at LSU, he’s eligible to play.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.