Story Poster
Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Football Developing & Evaluating in December

December 13, 2022

Notre Dame will fully turn its attention to South Carolina in the coming days, but the first four practices have focused on development. 

It means getting reps for players stepping into roles vacated by All-Americans Michael Mayer and Isaiah Foskey, while also getting the youth of the roster quality reps. The reps are valuable in many ways as the players are able to improve, but also show the staff how they fit into the future. 

The vyper position will have all eyes on it as Foskey, Notre Dame’s all-time sack leader, is gone and Justin Ademilola and Jordan Botelho are in line for reps in the Gator Bowl. It’s a big three-week stretch for Botelho as ISD’s Jamie Uyeyama alluded to earlier this week (The Future is Now for Botelho and Watts), but it’s also significant for freshman Junior Tuihalamaka. 

The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder isn’t new to the vyper position as he had been cross-training there since October and caught the eye of defensive coordinator Al Golden following the UNLV game. 

"He reps at both spots and we used him (against) UNLV in both spots,” Golden said in October. “I don't know if we used him at linebacker in this past game, but certainly at the defensive end or vyper spot, so that was good."

Tuihalamaka also took reps at vyper against Syracuse before earning his first start at linebacker against Navy’s triple-option attack. 

The ability to be a big body while being able to rush the passer and play in coverage are traits Golden highlighted combined with Tuihalamaka’s ability to be an athete. 

“I just think it's a great spot for him,” Golden explained on Sunday. “He's really smart, he's rugged. He's already around 250 pounds. So he's in the ballpark already as a freshman. He gives us versatility there too because he still has the qualities to drop and do those things. So we're not just locked into a specific four-man rush. We can drop him if we need to into the boundary."

Cornerback Jaden Mickey is another freshman who saw extended action this fall and needs no introduction. Sure, Mickey had his ups and downs, but that’s expected for a first-year player and Golden knows the California native has the mental toughness to move past the USC game. 

“We love Mick,” stated Golden. “He's a competitor. He's resilient. He'll find a way. The last game obviously was a great challenge and they made some plays and those types of things, but he just got to keep maturing, competing and learning. 

“So these guys are just at the start of the journey.” 

And while some fans criticized Mickey’s play, Golden has no regrets and knows this season was a big learning experience, which will pay off down the road.

“I would recruit Mickey every year,” Golden said. “I'm excited about his future here and the type of young man he is and the competitor and how he learns and his versatility being able to play nickel or whatever the case may be.” 

As for the players who didn’t see consistent playing time, Golden has been evaluating who can potentially help Notre Dame against the Gamecocks - even if it’s for a few snaps. 

“By the time we break for the holiday, they would have demonstrated whether or not we can use them in this game,” said Golden.” That goes for linebackers and anybody else that may be in the mix, maybe not have played but they're not going to burn a redshirt year by playing in this game.  

“(Jaylen) Sneed comes to mind. Some of those other guys. Tyson Ford comes to mind. (Jason) Onye comes to mind. Like, let's see what you got. Can you give us reps down there? So we're challenging a lot of guys right now to make that move. But once we break on the 22nd, we're pretty going much going to be fixed on the game, that's it.” 

 Under Armour Camo Notre Dame Fighting Irish Freedom Performance T-Shirt

subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.