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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Position Battles | Defensive End

June 22, 2020

Having two defensive ends selected in the NFL Draft would have been crippling for Notre Dame in many years during the last two decades. There is no rebuilding on the defensive line in the present day, though. Only reloading.

Notre Dame returns experience and young talent with a handful of players who could be joining Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem in the NFL. There is potential for the pass rush to be just as good as it was last season (13th in sack rate).


The position formerly known as Drop returns Daelin Hayes as a player with starting experience and plenty of snaps under his belt. An injury took him out of what looked like a promising 2019 season (three tackles for loss in four games).

He has developed into a stout player versus the run, but his athleticism hasn’t translated into production as pass rusher. He needs to be more consistent with his hands and plan of attack to reach his potential.

Ovie Oghoufo was recruited as a linebacker and made the switch to end last year. Though he is behind with his physical development, his twitch and his motor stood out as a pass rusher in practices. It also showed up in opportunities on Saturdays.

He still has some work to do to develop his gifts into winning off the edge and he needs to add strength to be a consistent run defender. His development will be exciting to watch.

Isaiah Foskey may move over to the strong side, but he was a Vyper last season. The sky's the limit with his physical ability and he may have the highest ceiling out of anyone on the defensive line. He already managed to make an impact in his four game audition last season with a huge blocked punt that swung the game for Notre Dame against Stanford.

He’ll be in the rotation this year and it’s not out of the question that he pushes for a starting job.

One reason why the coaches may want to slide Foskey to the other end has to do with Jordan Botelho. The true freshman may be too talented to not have him play opposite Foskey one day.

The odds may be stacked against him to crack the rotation because of the players in front of him, but I believe he has a shot at making a move this season.

Kofi Wardlow is going to be in tough to make a move this season. He has never really flashed in practices when we’ve seen him and does not appear close to being a factor. He’s already been passed by Oghoufo and Foskey.

Strong side

Ade Ogundeji was ready to start last season. He just had the misfortune of having Khalid Kareem ahead of him on the depth chart. With injuries at end bumping him up the depth chart, he was able to get more reps and his production exploded down the stretch.

All 4.5 of his sacks came in the final three games when his reps went up.

It’s probably unrealistic for him to keep up that kind of pace this season, but it shows he is capable of big things. Double digit sacks may not be out of the question if he goes up a level this fall.

Justin Ademilola has been good enough to play more than he has and should finally get more of a chance to make an impact. Like his brother Jayson, he knows how to get off blocks and wins with good technique.

I think he will surprise some people with his ability and prove to be a very good rotation player for the Irish.

NaNa Osafo-Mensah redshirted last year. He clearly needed some time to refine his technique and find more consistency with his get off and hands. The physical tools are there for him to be great and he’ll have to start putting it all together starting this year.

Speaking of physical tools, the early reports on Alex Ehrensberger have been very positive. He’s going to need some time to adjust to the level of play and grow his game. He’ll redshirt this season and it will be intriguing to see how much bigger he’ll get over the next few years.

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