LSU signee’s coach ‘shocked,’ thought he was Auburn-bound

OL Chidi Valentine-Okeke of Nigeria (AJC)

OL Chidi Valentine-Okeke of Nigeria (AJC)

There were a ton of surprises for this year’s signing day in Georgia, and one of the biggest was Chidi Valentine-Okeke.

He was the 4-star offensive lineman who popped up on the recruiting radar during his senior season at Faith Baptist Christian Academy, an independent private school in Stockbridge.

At one point, Valentine-Okeke was rumored to be headed to either UGA, Auburn and Alabama. He surprised everybody the week before signing day when he pledged to LSU.

“That was a shock to me when he committed to LSU — that was definitely a shock to me,” Faith Baptist coach Jonathan Morgans told the AJC on Tuesday. “I didn’t see that one coming. I really didn’t see that coming.

“I know he had fun on all of his visits. I think with him going to LSU, they’re going to be a dominant team this year. He’s going to have an impact on that team. He’ll probably play more there than he would at any other schools.”

Valentine-Okeke had a lot of twists and turns in his recruiting journey. He moved from Nigeria to Miami as a junior, and then transferred to the Atlanta area before the start of his senior season.

The 6-foot-6, 300-pounder was first classified as a 2016 recruit, but then changed to 2015 when it was determined he could qualify this year. He ended up rated as the state’s No. 11 overall prospect for 2015.

How did LSU seemingly come out of the blue to lure Valentine-Okeke from its SEC rivals? “They came to his Army All-America ceremony. They were around.

“I really thought Auburn was going to get him. He always talked about how he loved Auburn. That was a shocker to me. I’m sure it was a heartbreaker to Auburn, along with Alabama and UGA. I think UGA was probably more hurt than any of them. That was a local kid that they lost. But I plan on getting some more kids to them in the future. We’ll keep putting them out.

Valentine-Okeke’s coach said he didn’t know his star player’s destination until he announced it.

“Chidi and his handler kept their mouths closed,” Morgans said. “No one knew. We were just as shocked as everybody. Going into it, I really thought Auburn was going to get him. But you never know. He can tell you one thing one minute, and then change his mind. That’s recruiting. But he sat down and evaluated everything, and picked the best situation for him. I think it showed his maturity. I think Chidi is very smart young man, and he did what was truly best for him.”

There has been speculation that Valentine-Okeke might have trouble meeting NCAA Clearinghouse requirements after changing schools so many times, but his coach said he should make to LSU this summer.

“I think he’ll make it just fine,” Morgans said. “His transcripts are good. The only issue was his ACT. But he has 3.1 GPA. He’s going to LSU regardless.