SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame only had one spring practice before everything was canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. So where do these cancellations leave coach Brian Kelly’s squad?
Let’s take a look at each position group and see how the Irish fare heading into the summer.
Last week, we took a look at the Notre Dame offense. This week shifts to the defensive side of the ball, starting with a defensive line looking to replace NFL draft picks Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem.
It’s also a defensive line looking to improve both against the rush and pressuring the quarterback. The Irish allowed an average of 151.7 yards rushing in 2019 — which was 59th in the nation — and recorded only 34 sacks, good for 33rd in the country.
Senior defensive end Daelin Hayes had six tackles and a sack in three games last season. He was on pace to have a strong season when he tore his labrum in the fourth game of the season against Virginia, sidelining him for the rest of the season.
While the injury was devastating, the timing of it allowed Hayes to redshirt and return for a fifth season at Notre Dame. The NCAA allows players to play in up to four games and still use a redshirt year to gain an extra year of eligibility.
Hayes has had struggles living up to his five-star prospect rating coming out of high school, recording 80 career tackles and six sacks in 34 games. For the Irish defensive line to be effective in the pass rush in 2020, it’ll need Hayes to play to his potential.
Fortunately for Hayes, he won’t have to go it alone as Notre Dame returns three other seniors starting along its defensive line. Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Kurt Hinish started all 13 games at defensive tackle and nose guard, respectively. They’ll be leaned on once again to produce productive 2020 campaigns.
On the opposite end of the defensive line from Hayes will be graduate senior Ade Ogundeji, who had a solid 2019 campaign in a backup role. After not playing in his first two seasons with the Irish, Ogundeji has totaled 51 tackles and 4.5 sacks the past two seasons. Playing behind Kareem all season last year, the West Bloomfield, Michigan, native will now get a chance to be the full-time starter in his final year on campus.
DEPTH BEHIND STARTERS
There’s a lot of young talent behind the four starting seniors for the Irish.
A lot of eyes will be on redshirt freshman Isaiah Foskey, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive end from Antioch, California. Foskey appeared in four games last season, the threshold for redshirting a player.
He recorded five total tackles, accounting for one solo tackle and assisting for four others. There was a lot of hype surrounding Foskey coming out of high school, as he was one of the top weakside defensive ends in the country, per 247Sports. He’ll likely start the season as a backup to either Hayes or Ogundeji.
A couple of redshirt sophomores could also see substantial playing time at the defensive end position. Ovie Oghoufo and Justin Ademilola both saw playing time in 2019, appearing in nine and eight games, respectively. Oghoufo had a strong showing in the regular-season finale, tallying six tackles and 1.5 sacks in the win over Stanford. Ademilola recorded just nine total tackles in the 2019 season.
Ademilola’s twin brother, Jayson, is also back for his junior campaign. He was the backup to Tagovailoa-Amosa at defensive tackle last year, appearing in 11 games and recording 25 tackles. He’ll be a key part in the defensive tackle rotation for 2020, just like he has been the last two seasons in South Bend.
Backing up Hinish will be sophomore Jacob Lacey. In his freshman season last year, Lacey recorded 14 tackles in 11 appearances. He, like Jayson Ademilola, will be key to the interior defensive lineman rotation for 2020.