Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Bold Prediction For 2019 | No. 2

July 14, 2019
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Notre Dame defensive end Khalid Kareem has received his fair share of attention this offseason as the 6-foot-4, 262-pounder has been mentioned in several mock drafts and articles across the country. 

Classmate and fellow defensive end Julian Okwara has started to receive more national praise over the last few weeks, so here’s where my bold prediction will come into play.

Khalid Kareem will lead Notre Dame in sacks in 2019. 

Most people will have Julian Okwara leading the Irish in sacks as he’s been a terror off the edge, but some around the Notre Dame program have felt Kareem has been the best pass rusher on the team over the last two seasons. 

For Kareem, it starts and begins with health. In 2018, the Michigan native battled through not one, but two sprained ankles to record 42 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and five pass deflections. 

Kareem had to have help simply walking to the car after games or the next day. So, dealing with two sprained ankles doesn’t sound fun, right? And as expected, Kareem downplayed the injuries earlier this spring.

“I played through a little bit of pain,” stated Kareem. “I injured my left ankle against Michigan in week one. I had another high ankle sprain on my right and that was a little bit worse against Vanderbilt. I didn’t have time to recover. We had to play, so I played a little bit banged up, but that’s part of football.”

The ability to play through the injuries and produce at a high level should have Brian Kelly, Mike Elston, Clark Lea and NFL scouts salivating at what Kareem could potentially do as a healthy player this fall. 

The second reason I think Kareem will lead Notre Dame in sacks deals with Julian Okwara. Teams will have to pick who to double-team and that’s going to most likely be Okwara as he’ll come from the blindside. 

Life gets easy for Kareem who will be working 1-on-1 on the right tackle or potentially coming from inside in some third-down packages. 

However, both players can and will be moved around the defensive line to get favorable matchups on third down. Heck, Okwara had success against Clemson from rushing from a 3-tech position. Putting Okwara and Kareem next to each other in speed packages could be money in the bank for Lea. 

It’s also been well-documented from the time Kareem signed with Notre Dame that he’s a technician. The ability to use his hands, get to counter moves or play the run and pass at a high level is something Kareem has been able to do from day one. 

As a senior, Kareem has seen it all, so he now has two years of experience to build on, but that didn’t stop him from taking his hands and speed to the next level. 

Kareem spent his three-week summer break in Georgia training with Marcus Howard, who played 10 years professionally after recording 22.5 sacks over his final two years at Georgia. 

The emphasis was to work on Kareem’s first step, hand power and hand quickness. As you can see from this video, Kareem looks quick, powerful and violent. 

Overall, Kareem and Okwara are exactly what Notre Dame has been missing for so many years as they will not only put up big stats (I expect both to get double-digit sacks), but allow each other to get favorable matchups and complement each other. 

Kareem has also taken it on himself to become a leader and a driving force within the Notre Dame locker room. 

“I’m really not letting anything slide,” Kareem said in the spring. “If a guy messes up, I don’t have to yell at him during the play or practice, but I can pull him aside to let him know how to fix it. 

"I want to help them in their development but also show them how to do it right on the field.” 

Bold Prediction For 2019 | No. 1

And when you watch this, remember most of the highlights are with two sprained ankles. 

 
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