Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Ogundeji | "We can be the Best Defense in the Country"

April 10, 2019

When Ade Ogundeji was offered a scholarship, he was seen as a long term project with big time potential. Physically he had all of the traits that a program would look for in a defensive end, but he was a raw talent and needed time to physically develop and refine his game.

After redshirting his first year on campus and then showing flashes in his second year, Ogundeji finally found his way into the rotation in year three while backing up Khalid Kareem at defensive end.

Notre Dame fans started to see that potential rise up to the surface with 3 tackles for loss, one pass deflection, and two forced fumbles last season.

One of those TFLs came against Clemson when Ogundeji beat All-American tackle Mitch Hyatt around the edge for a sack on Trevor Lawrence. Making a play like that seems like the kind of thing that can boost a player’s confidence heading into the offseason and we’ve seen a confident Ogundeji this spring.

On top of that, just playing as much as he did last season was enough to make him feel better about his progression as a player.

“Playing during the game gives you confidence during the season,” admitted Ogundeji. “I think (the sack against Clemson) definitely gave me confidence. I’ve gotten a lot of reps this spring, gotten a lot of reps during the games, so that definitely built my confidence up.”

He’s approaching every one of those reps as a chance to get better and it’s showing on the practice field. While some might view the spring as not being important compared to what happens during the season, Ogundeji knows the details he is working on right now will pay off in the months to come.

“You’re focused on your craft and really working on what you need to get better,” Ogundeji said about spring practice. “That’s what I feel like I’ve been trying to do these last couple of weeks.”

And, pardon the pun, he’s using these practices as a springboard for what’s to come in the fall.

“I feel like, especially this year because I played a lot and I understand what goes on during the game, I think this year will be a great leap for me and I can use that on the field right now.”

When the Irish went to a 3rd down look on defense last Thursday, Ogundeji was on the field disrupting the offense. He even came up with a strip sack to put an exclamation point on a dominant series of plays from the Notre Dame defensive line.

That performance reiterated to everyone in attendance the kind of talent the Irish have up front and just how good they can be again in 2019.

“When we go 100%, we’re the best defensive line in the country,” Ogundeji stated confidently. “That’s just the truth. I feel like that with everybody (on the line) and with myself, if we go out there and we put out 100% effort and go out there with great technique, go out there with great craft, and go out there with an execution of the defense, we’re the best defensive line in the country. No doubt.”

It helps that the Irish are so deep at Ogundeji’s position. For the first time in years, there is an overflow of capable defensive ends on the roster. Ogundeji could start for many programs, but at Notre Dame he is backing up Kareem.

That’s fine with Ogundeji and the rest of the group because they do a great job of pushing each other on the field while being happy for the overall success of the team.

“Each guy is working on themselves to get better, but it’s definitely a competitive thing. When you see guys making plays, you always want to make a play. When (Khalid Kareem) is out there making plays, I’m happy for him and I’m thinking like I can make those plays too.”

Although the defense has lost some key players, it hasn’t changed the outlook for Ogundeji and the rest of his teammates. What they accomplished last season has only motivated them further to take the next step.

He knows it’s going to take the full focus of everyone on the defense, but that they have the personnel that can help Notre Dame win a championship.

“We can be the best defense in the country and I thoroughly believe that,” Ogundeji said. “I believe we can win the national championship with this defense. I truly believe that.

“I feel like we have the guys who can go out there and win. I got to focus on myself and everyone else has to just focus to be the best defense.”

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