Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 30 of 55 APRIL 2021 31 DEFENSIVE LINEMEN 2021 SPRING FOOTBALL PREVIEW Q uality depth, development and consistent rotation/production have become the hallmarks in recent years under 12th-year Notre Dame assistant Mike Elston along the defensive line. In the 12 games last year, 11 different Fighting Irish defensive line- men played anywhere from 141 snaps (about 12 per game) to 483 (about 40 per game). The threshold generally is generally around 50, so the Irish have kept fresh legs in the game, and that should continue to be the case in 2021. Notre Dame in 2020 had fifth-year senior starters at end with Daelin Hayes and Ade Ogundeji, and this year it is in the interior with Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovailoa- Amosa, and a plethora of comple- mentary figures behind them. There are three primary issues/ questions entering the spring. The first is finding a comple- ment at end opposite junior Isaiah Foskey. The second is developing more star power. Foskey passes the proverbial "eye test" as the most coveted future NFL pros- pect along the current line, but who else can emerge enough to be prized at the highest level? Finally, how will new coordi- nator Marcus Freeman's poten- tial tweaks mesh with the cur- rent personnel? Freeman's base at Cincinnati the past three years was more of a 3-3-5 look, while Notre Dame has recruited to and operated mainly with four-man fronts, while still having some flexibility to alter alignments. BY THE NUMBERS 4 Rising sophomores — Jordan Botelho, Rylie Mills, Alex- ander Ehrensberger and nose tackle Aidan Keanaaina — who still have four years of eligibility remaining. Special teams regular Botelho at vyper and Mills especially could have much more expanded roles on the 2021 defense. 16 Defensive linemen on scholarship, 15 of whom will be available for spring drills. This includes three freshmen early enrollees in ends Devin Aupiu and Will Sch- weitzer, plus highly touted tackle Gabe Rubio. The fourth freshman, end/tackle Jason Onye, will enroll this summer. 108 Career tackles between Kurt Hinish (55) and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (53), including 25 behind the line of scrimmage. Pro Football Focus credited Tagovailoa-Amosa with 24 pass pressures in 2020, the second-most among Irish interior linemen in the seven years PFF has been tracking such data. WHO'S GONE DE Daelin Hayes One of five team captains last season, he finished his career with 97 stops, 20.5 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks. DE Ade Ogundeji He joined his classmate Hayes as a captain and progressed each season, leading the team in sacks last year (7.0) while developing into a bona fide NFL prospect. DE Ovie Oghoufo The reserve end opted to use his graduate transfer season at the University of Texas. WHO'S BACK Fifth-year senior NT Kurt Hinish A durable and consistent mainstay, starting all 25 games the past two seasons and ranking third on the team in tackles for loss (7.5) last year. Fifth-year senior DT Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa He earned second-team All-ACC honors in 2020 and combines with classmate Hinish to form veteran interior with his 889 snaps from the past two years. Senior DE Justin Ademilola Among reserve defensive linemen in 2020, his 233 snaps (17 tackles, 2.5 for loss) ranked second. Senior DT Jayson Ademilola The twin brother of Justin, he has been a regular in the interior rotation the past three years but missed four games in 2020 with health setbacks. Junior DE Isaiah Foskey In a part-time role, he finished second among 2020 Irish linemen in tackles (20) and his 4.5 sacks trailed only Ogundeji. Junior NT Jacob Lacey Enjoyed a strong freshman debut in 2019 before health issues appeared to hold him back last season. Sophomore DE Jordan Botelho Saw action in 11 games as a rookie, with his top highlight returning a blocked punt for a touchdown against South Florida in his second career game. He plays with a fierce edge. Sophomore DT/DE Rylie Mills Contributed as a true freshman, recording seven tackles (2.0 for loss) while playing in nine games with one start. He provides much versatility. DEFENSIVE LINE COACH Mike Elston — 12th Year (10th with DL) No football assistant at Notre Dame has had a longer on-field tenure since linebacker coach George Kelly's 17 consecu- tive seasons from 1969-85. Overall, this is the 17th straight season Elston has been with head coach Brian Kelly. He also has swapped roles with Brian Polian, now the new associate head coach while Elston becomes the recruiting coordinator, a title he also held from 2015-17. POSITION BATTLE TO WATCH Junior Isaiah Foskey is the playmaking linchpin at end. His skill set might be needed more at vyper, which leaves the strong-side spot wide open. Senior Justin Ademilola and junior NaNa Osafo-Mensah, sidelined last year because of knee surgery, are two of the candidates, but a wild card could be sophomore Rylie Mills, who head coach Brian Kelly said possessed "unique traits" at end or tackle. Mills became a regular in the second half of 2020. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS KURT HINISH

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