Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Spring Post-Mortem | Defensive End

April 23, 2019
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Can too much depth be a bad thing? I don’t think so and certainly not if the players at the top of the depth chart are proven front line players.

It’s been decades since Notre Dame had this kind of depth at the defensive end position and the biggest problem for Mike Elston might be finding enough snaps to go around. What a great problem for him to have and an unfortunate one for opposing offenses.

The defensive end position in 2018 combined for 32 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, four forced fumbles, 8 passes deflected, and one interception. From what we saw from the group this spring, they have the potential to put up even better numbers this fall.

Drop

Last season established Julian Okwara as the starter at Drop and there wasn’t much that needed to be seen from him this spring to stay there. They ended up giving more reps to other players at Drop towards the back half of spring practice because Okwara is a known quantity.

However, he did display his prowess as a pass rusher in a practice late in the spring when he was generating consistent pressure off the edge with Notre Dame’s 3rd down personnel and then again showed it in the first part of the Blue-Gold game.

There was nothing during the spring that would suggest Okwara isn’t in line for a big senior season.

Daelin Hayes might be a notch below Okwara as a pass rusher, but he flashed with his spin move and ability to win inside against guards when moved around. On many previous Notre Dame teams Hayes would be a starter and his play as a run defender continues to be strong.

Because there is little mystery with what Okwara and Hayes bring to the table, it allowed Justin Ademilola more reps to show how he’s progressed since last summer. More than just impressing in the Blue-Gold game, he looks like he is ready to join the rotation this season.

His hands are advanced for someone so young and he did a nice job when asked to play in a 7-technique (inside shade of the tight end) against the run. Opportunities might be limited because of the veterans above him, but he might prove too good to keep off the field considering how he looked this spring.

This was our first look at Ovie Oghoufo at Drop after he started out at linebacker last summer. While he still has a long way to go to be a complete player, his motor was impossible to miss. Relentless is the best word to describe him and and he looks like a future contributor at the position.

Kofi Wardlow did get some opportunities in practice, but he still looks raw with his footwork and hands. With Oghoufo and Ademilola in the class behind him, Wardlow needs to make a move in fall camp or risk falling so far behind them that he won’t be able to catch up.

End

The coaching staff was careful with Kareem when it came to his reps as well. Then he continually won off the edge in the spring game to ease any concerns about him not taking another step forward as a player.

Knowing what we saw from a guy who wasn’t close to 100% for a significant portion of the season in 2018, it’s hard not to envision a healthy Kareem being great for the Irish opposite Okwara.

Less reps for Kareem meant more for Ade Ogundeji. His ascension continues. He’s so much more confident and better at utilizing his length to his advantage. There were some instances with Ogundeji where he looked borderline unblockable.

His ability to rush from the interior on 3rd downs and also win on the edge makes him a valuable player for the Irish.

It’s easy to forget about Jamir Jones, but I thought he looked much better this spring than at any time last season (his first on the defensive line). The position might be deep enough for him to take a redshirt and be available for a fifth year. There isn’t going to be a big drop off from him if he’s in the game this fall, though.

Early enrollee NaNa Osafo-Mensah didn’t play a ton this spring with so many other bodies available. He did look his best in the spring game, although it was against second team offensive line that struggled. Isaiah Foskey will join him in the spring and if either appear good enough to play this fall if needed, it could make it possible to not use Jones for more than four games in 2019.

 
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