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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Captain Ade Ogundeji Believes Irish Are Ready for Duke

September 10, 2020
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Most knew the 2016 recruiting class was a special one at the defensive end position as Notre Dame signed Daelin Hayes, Khalid Kareem, Ade Ogundeji and Julian Okwara in 2016.

Fast forward to 2020 and it's turning out to an exceptional haul as all four will have held the role of captain for the Fighting Irish as Hayes and Ogundeji received the honor on Tuesday. 

Hayes, Kareem and Ogundeji share a special bond as not only did all three arrive together, but they are from Michigan. 

That bond led to Ogundeji paying close attention to Kareem last year and it allowed him to be ready for the role this fall. 

"It means so much," Ogundeji said of being named a captain. "First of all, I want to thank God just for getting this opportunity to play football. I just want to thank teammates. It means so much that they voted for me to be their captain. It just means a lot. 

"I've been here for a long time and to see the last captains come here and lead the team, I understand how much means to be a captain."

Ogundeji earned the role through a tough offseason and despite the challenges, there is a light at the end of the tunnel as Notre Dame hosts Duke on Saturday. 

"I think we've done a good job during the offseason to get our guys ready through the weight room and then right now in training camp," explained Ogundeji. "I think we've done a good job of accelerating and learning the plays and understanding the things. I think right now we're good. 

"I'm ready. I feel like we're ready to go out there and play. I know all the guys are excited to go out there and play for the first time against Duke."

The 6-foot-5, 268-pounder arrived 40 pounds lighter as a freshman and transformed his body under the tutelage of Matt Balis. 

Ogundeji will be the first to tell you his physical transformation was step one of his process. 

"I think I've done a good job just with my football IQ, learning the plays and understanding what to do," said Ogundeji. "My first year, I would say it took me a while to understand what the plays were, even my second year understanding what the plays were. 

"I try to take as much time to watch film, understand what the game plan was, understand how to run plays against the opponent. I will say my mental preparation for the game is definitely something that I grew throughout my four years here."

Mastering the playbook and being productive last fall doesn't mean Ogundeji relaxed this offseason. The Michigan native spent time training to improve on his 34 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, five hurries and three forced fumbles in 2019. 

"I feel like this offseason I worked on my hands a lot," Ogundeji stated. "Trying to get my hands in the run game and also in the pass game. 

"Also trying to work on my get-off. I didn't really get a lot of third-down opportunities last year, but I feel like when I did, I just had to work on my get-off, so I worked on my get-off a lot this year. Just trying to apply those in passing situations, but also run situations as well."

Every program is facing a shortened training camp and veterans will need to set the tone physically early. Ogundeji feels Notre Dame has had enough physical practices, but he's made sure to communicate to the younger players what's needed to be ready for Saturday. 

"I think we've done a good amount of live tackling for the season, but the only way you can really get it is if you go full speed," Ogundeji explained. "I feel like during practice periods, we talk about going 100% during those live periods and going fast, even when it's not live. 

"Going to the ball at 100 percent speed because that's the only way you're going to simulate it in the game if you're going 100 percent. You're not going to go at 90 or 80. It's only going one speed and one speed only."

The Fighting Irish defense has turned into a very good defense since 2016 and 2020 will be a year to prove they can reload after losing seven players who are on NFL rosters heading into week one. 

"I don't think we're worried about the last defense," said Ogundeji. "I think we're worried about what's happening right now. I think that's the most important thing is that we're focused on right now. We have a great unit right now. We have a great group of guys. The brotherhood that we have within this group is amazing. 

"I think that's going to help us towards the season and you're going to see against Duke, a bunch of guys flying around because that's what we've been teaching the guys. Going 100 percent and flying around for 60 minutes."

 
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