Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2022*

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM SEPT. 10, 2022 19 Ademilola doesn't lead Notre Dame and tie for fifth nationally among defensive tackles in quarterback pressures (43) without a high-horsepower motor. "I say all the time, we want to play with emotion but not be emotional," Freeman said. "Jayson definitely brings an element of emotion to the way he plays. He plays extremely hard. He raises the play of those around him." Ademilola is indispensable to Notre Dame's defense not only because of that production but also because his attitude is infectious. At least, that's his goal. He's willing to raise his hand first to an- swer any challenge or set the mood. If it sounds like he has a screw loose, well, he won't deny it. In fact, he sees that as a requirement for a defensive tackle. "A great football player once told me that if you don't have a little bit of crazy in you, you can't play this position," Ademilola said. "If you don't have it, you better fake it. You better step across the line and act crazy, intimidate the dude in front of you. It's the mindset that nobody can touch you, nobody can beat you. "Whether it's one-on-one, two-on- one, whatever, close the door, turn off the lights. Put the ball in the parking lot, put it on the field, put in the shopping center, it doesn't matter. Go to war." Ademilola is willing to demonstrate because he says he never had to fake crazy. There was no growth period of embracing it once he arrived at Notre Dame. Not as a freshman. Not even as a high schooler. Maybe having a twin brother — Notre Dame graduate student defensive end Justin Ademilola — to push him every day helped cultivate it. He credits a grade school and high school wrestling background, too. "I've had that probably since I was in eighth grade, probably since I've been a wrestler," Ademilola said. "All the guys from [New] Jersey, especially my brother and I. I feel like we're the tough- est brothers in the country." Ademilola wants his never-back-down mentality to show up pre-snap, when he fixates his eyes onto whoever is across the line from him. He demonstrated — perhaps without even trying to — as he answered a question about how he helps the defensive line, staring directly into the eyes of a reporter who asked. "I'm going to intimidate you," Ademi- lola said, not breaking eye contact. "I'm going to look at you, and then when the ball's gone, it's off and running. The ball's snapped, and I'm flying, I'm going. "… We all do that, and next thing you know, I'm pushing the pocket and you see the D-ends getting sacks. Then we're all playing together because we're in their head." Notre Dame's starting defensive line has a lengthy list of impressive indi- vidual traits and four potential impact players. It has a productive interior player in Ademilola and a high-end pass rusher in senior vyper Isaiah Foskey, a projected first-round draft pick next spring. Elsewhere, the Irish have a potential breakout star who put forth dominant stretches of spring and summer prac- tice in junior end Rylie Mills. He's a 6-5, 292-pound edge player who can bench press 420 pounds and reach 19 miles per hour in sprint speed. It earned him a spot on The Athletic college football writer Bruce Feldman's annual Freaks List. Next to him is pesky nose tackle in senior Howard Cross III, whose quick- ness, hand usage and pound-for-pound strength help him overcome a smaller frame (6-1, 276) for the position. He was Ademilola's substitute during spring practice while Ademilola recovered from shoulder surgery. He was such a frequent backfield resident then and in the early stages of preseason camp that Notre Dame moved him back to nose tackle to put him in the starting lineup. Collectively, they're a potentially dominant group with that collection of skills sets. Especially when those skill sets work in harmony like Ademilola has observed this year. "Each guy knows what he needs to do," Ademilola said. "The trust in the D-Line is at its all-time high. I play D-tackle, but I know what Howie is going to do, what [tackle] Jacob [Lacey] is going to do. I play D-tackle, but I know what the D- ends are going to do. I play D-tackle, but I know what the vypers are going to do. "We understand we all play differ- ent positions, but our jobs are just as important. We all need to be on the same page. Communication has never been higher. We all know our strengths. We're going to play to our strengths." Their greatest strength is not a physi- cal trait, Ademilola said. It's a mentality. One that has the seal of approval from Notre Dame's mood-setter. "We feel like we're the toughest, strongest, badass [expletive]s in the country," Ademilola said, "and that's just going to be our strength." ✦ "I always tell the guys, 'Listen, practice bringing out that dog mentality.' Bring it out in practice so it comes out during the game. We talk about bringing out that energy in your body that's bigger than you that makes you go numb." ADEMILOLA

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