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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

ISD's Three Most Wanted

May 22, 2018

The Irish had a big month on the recruiting trail as Notre Dame landed several key commitments but there are a few more names that will be crucial to the future of the program. 

2019 defensive end NaNa Osafo-Mensah‍ committed to Notre Dame over the weekend, but the search for another pass rusher is heating up as Mike Elston would love to add another in the class. 

Elston’s attention will now turn to Bergen Catholic (N.J.) defensive end Aeneas DiCosmo‍. At 6-foot-3, DiCosmo has plenty of speed, athleticism and length to become a dynamic player on the edge, but there have been questions about his size and strength. 

In checking around, DiCosmo is working on those two areas, and there is even some scuttlebutt he weighed in at 226 pounds during a recent visit to Cal. Over the weekend, the three-star prospect showed off his strength at the Under Armour camp. 

DiCosmo would ideally be the player for Notre Dame to sign to pair with Osafo-Mensah and a very similar combo to current Irish defensive ends Daelin Hayes and Julian Okwara. 

It’s hard not to love the effort DiCosmo shows on each play, but it’s not just effort to get to the quarterback. DiCosmo is all over the field chasing plays down from the backside and from behind, which is a coaches dream. 

In clip one, DiCosmo shows he can get the edge and track down the quarterback with ease, but also arrive to the quarterback with violence. 

Clip two shows DiCosmo starting off inside, which isn't totally ideal for him, but it's the effort he displays. It might not be the cleanest pass rush in the world, but he fights through the traffic and then uses his speed to track down the ball on the edge.

Playing the run is also an important piece to defensive end. DiCosmo doesn't have to shed a block here, but the arrival to the ball is impressive. 

In the final clip, DiCosomo doesn't much of a pass rush against 2018 Alabama offensive line signee Tommy Brown‍ but watch the relentless effort to track down 2018 USC signee Amon-ra St. Brown‍ and make the stop. 

Jamie Uyeyama's Thoughts: 

I can understand why Stanford likes him at inside linebacker because of his frame and they might question how big he will get, but his motor and first step are ideal for an edge prospect and the Drop position. 

The clip that stands out to me is the one where he is lined up inside and wins with his lateral quickness. Notre Dame had Daelin Hayes aligned inside (from a standup position) to win matchups with the interior line a few times last year and we didn't see him deliver pressure on those plays. DiCosmo shows he can do it here. 

He has to work on his hands quite a bit, but the base is there for him to be a nickel rusher early in his college career. Notre Dame can definitely use someone with his skills.

Irish Sports Daily
QB Graham Mertz

While landing pass rushers has always been a priority for Notre Dame, the Irish haven’t necessarily had a problem landing quarterbacks. However, Blue Valley North (Kans.) quarterback Graham Mertz‍ could be an absolute game-changer for Notre Dame, but he will have to decommit from Wisconsin first. 

Phil Jurkovec‍ will be in South Bend in June, and 2020 New Canaan (Conn.) quarterback Drew Pyne‍ is solid in his commitment to Notre Dame, but having a third quarterback in a row with big-time potential could set the Irish up for years. 

Mertz threw for 3,684 yards and 45 touchdowns with just six interceptions in his first season playing varsity football in 2017. 

Everyone wants to see impressive throws and this one is up there with the best of them. Mertz shows patience by not forcing a ball early and throws a dime on the run down the sideline. Accuary, arm strength and improvising....everything you want to see from a quarterback.

Playaction is crucial in Chip Long's offense and Mertz is very good at it. This is routine play in within the offensive structure and he shows the ability to fit the ball in tight window with his accuracy and arm strength. 

In the third clip, Mertz avoids some pressure but keeps his eyes downfield during the chaos. He could have easily run for a few yards and moved to the next play. However, his patience and vision allows him to make a game-changing play. 

Jamie Uyeyama's Thoughts:

The reason why Mertz is such an enticing prospect isn't just his arm strength (although that's a huge plus). It's the mobility combined with that. He can get out of the pocket to his left, square up, then deliver a strike. He escaped and be flushed out and deliver an accurate ball with touch down the sideline like that second throw too.

Everyone wants someone who can consistently win from the pocket. But the pocket isn't always going to be clean and often the players who can make plays down the field outside of it have the highest ceilings. Mertz can do that and do it well.

Rick Kimball/ISD
LB Osita Ekwonu

Notre Dame has also been looking for a boost in athleticism at the linebacker position and Providence Day (N.C.) standout Ositadinma Ekwonu‍ would accomplish that goal. 
The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder visited Notre Dame in April for an official visit, and the Irish became the likely leader. 

Ekwonu could play either linebacker spot in Clark Lea’s defense, but the ability to run and play in space is something of great value. The four-star prospect does need to add some weight, but Matt Balis has already laid out a plan on how to do just that. 

Outside of his physical traits, Ekwonu is a great tackler. It’s often not just a tackle as Ekwonu uses great force on the ball carrier, but he has the uncanny ability to find the right angles to make the stop.  

Looking at the linebacker corps down the line, the Irish could be very interesting with Jordan Genmark-Heath, Shayne Simon, Jack Lamb, Ovie Oghoufo, Isaiah Robertson, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and potentially Ekwonu. 

Ekwonu is dropping in pass coverage but is able to come back and make a powerful stop. Textbook tackle. 

Notre Dame wants linebackers that can run. This clip explains itself. Lots of ground covered and in a hurry. 

Physical play is also important for a linebacker and this tackle is the one of many that Ekwonu destroys the ball carrier with little effort. Play recognition on this play is also a positive.  

Jamie Uyeyama's Thoughts:

It's a cliché, but football is really a game of inches. That's why evaluators are constantly obsessed with arm length and hand size for prospects. A couple of inches can mean the difference between making a play or getting burned.

Football is also a game of milliseconds. Having someone with that can run like Ekwonu, who doesn't have to show blitz to hit home when he's not even lined up in the box, is unique. That's why the second clip is eye-popping. It's not a play most outside linebackers can make and Ekwonu makes it looks routine when it's anything but.


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