2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 86 of 163

BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2020 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ✦ 85 DEFENSIVE LINEMEN NOTABLE DATA Last year, Notre Dame matched its single- season high under Brian Kelly of 34 sacks. The Irish set the mark in 2018, besting the 2012 figure by one. Pro Football Focus cred- ited Notre Dame with 31 quarterback hits and 156 hurries, bringing its pressure total to 221. The 2018 defense had 256 pressures. Notre Dame reached its repeat sack totals in two different ways. In 2018, Julian Okwara and Jerry Tillery combined for 16 of the 34 sacks. The Irish were a pass-rushing team reliant on two stars. In 2019, though, five players had anywhere from 4.0 to 5.5 sacks. The latter was the team high. Notre Dame was more of a by- committee pass rush. Both methods produced strong totals, and the 2020 team figures to be somewhere in the middle of the two. DID YOU KNOW? Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem were the second tandem of Notre Dame edge players picked in the same draft since 1997. Stephon Tuitt (second round) and Prince Shembo (fourth round) were selected in the 2014 draft. Okwara was a third-round pick of the Lions, while Kareem went with the first pick of the fifth round to Cincinnati. They combined for 27.5 career sacks and 49 tackles for loss. Kareem's replacement, Ade Ogundeji, has put himself on NFL radars as a draftable player and could boost his stock into the early rounds with an impressive final season that will come with more opportunity. 2019 VS. 2020: STOCK UP OR DOWN? Notre Dame loses its starting ends, but there's no feeling of impending drop- off or doom due to position coach Mike Elston's several strong recruiting classes in a row. A pair of fifth-year seniors, Ade Ogundeji and Daelin Hayes, will slide into the opened starting roles after serving as the primary backups at those spots in 2019. Notre Dame was comfortably four or five deep on the edge and projects to be again this year. Ovie Oghoufo and Isaiah Foskey are explosive speed rushers behind Hayes, who missed most of 2019 due to injury, although Foskey could also line up on the strong side. Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa are the beef in the middle, and Ja- cob Lacey emerged as a freshman to give Notre Dame a productive interior piece against the run and pass. The Ademilola brothers helped in backup roles, but will need to raise their level as juniors. X-FACTOR Ogundeji's road from one-time Western Michigan commit to Notre Dame starter is complete. He will take over for Khalid Kareem as the strong-side end, but it won't be much of an adjustment. He had 4.5 sacks last year in 348 snaps and earned the second-highest defensive grade of any Irish player from Pro Football Focus. He's a popular breakout pick for good reason. Going to Hayes from Okwara, one of PFF's highest-graded pass rushers on any team the last two seasons, is a dip in pass-rush produc- tion. Ogundeji having the standout season expected of him and climbing up NFL Draft boards will ensure Notre Dame doesn't suffer overall. FRESHMAN OUTLOOK A second straight four-man defensive line class was signed in 2020. The 2019 haul originally had five members, but Hunter Spears moved to the offensive line after the season. The numbers and quality make im- mediate playing time difficult for fresh- men Jordan Botelho, Aidan Keanaaina, Alexander Ehrensberger and Rylie Mills. The current sophomore class faced the same fate in 2019 — Lacey was the lone member not to redshirt. Notre Dame brought in four unique skill sets that are logical fits at a specific position. The balance should help when the Irish need to replace three senior starters. Not only is the unit's depth as impressive as any, but it is constructed with few flaws. Jacob Lacey played in 11 games as a true fresh- man last year and is part of another deep defen- sive front in 2020. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER SCHOLARSHIP PLAYERS (17) Listed after the class year is the years of eligi- bility remaining. Strong-Side End 91 Ade Ogundeji (6-4, 252), 5th-Sr./1 19 Justin Ademilola (6-2, 248), Jr./3 18 Nana Osafo-Mensah (6-3, 249), So./4 47 Kofi Wardlow (6-2, 240), Sr./2 98 Alexander Ehrensberger (6-7, 247), Fr./4 Nose Tackle 41 Kurt Hinish (6-2, 296), Sr./1 54 Jacob Lacey (6-2, 293), So./3 55 Ja'Mion Franklin (6-1, 310), Jr./3 — Aidan Keanaaina (6-3, 302), Fr./4 Defensive Tackle 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (6-2½, 286), Sr./2 57 Jayson Ademilola (6-3, 279), Jr./2 56 Howard Cross III (6-1, 265), So./4 99 Rylie Mills (6-5, 259), Fr./4 Vyper 9 Daelin Hayes (6-4, 270), 5th-Sr./1 29 Ovie Oghoufo (6-3, 232), Jr./3 94 Isaiah Foskey (6-5, 255), So./4 17 Jordan Botelho (6-2½, 248), Fr./4

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