The Irish are set up well for the 2018 season at defensive end, but continued success starts with the 2019 Notre Dame recruiting class.
Pass rush recruiting is always a hot topic amongst Notre Dame fans. For years, the Irish have struggled to recruit elite athletes along the defensive line, and in-particular edge rushers. However, the 2019 Notre Dame recruiting class boasts a different outlook. The Irish coaching staff has made headway with many top targets at the drop and strong-side defensive end positions, but it is time to close on these prospects.
2018 Roster Outlook
The current roster at defensive end is in good shape. Daelin Hayes is back as the starter at drop-end while Julian Okwara will likely continue his role as Notre Dame’s third down pass rush specialist. Khalid Kareem looks poised for a breakout season on the strong-side with Jay Hayes moving on from Notre Dame. These three provide the Notre Dame defensive with a solid foundation; something we haven’t seen sense the Stephon Tuitt days.
Things get murky when we start talking about depth. Ade Ogundeji and Kofi Wardlow offer minimal game experience, and Justin Ademilola has yet to step foot on campus as a Notre Dame student. Needless to say, Mike Elston will need to be creative with his personnel packages.
Can Hayes possibly handle the strong-side on third downs? Can any of the interior defensive linemen handle the EDGE against the run? Are any of the young guys ready to contribute? These are all questions the Irish staff is thinking about.
2019 Numbers Projection
In a perfect world, Notre Dame would like to add four defensive ends in the class; two on each side. Landing only one defensive end in 2018 was not an ideal scenario, therefore, the 2019 class will have make up for that deficiency. However, do not expect Notre Dame to add bodies simply to add them. That method rarely works in a team’s favor. 3-to-4 defensive ends should be the number come Wednesday, February 6, 2019.
Names to Know: Top Targets
Notre Dame has sent out nearly 30 offers to the 2019 defensive end prospects, and a few stand out as realistic possibilities to end up in the class. The top target at drop-end for quite some time has been Texas high school product, NaNa Osafo-Mensah. Osafo Mensah reported a Notre Dame offer last May and has since been to South Bend several times. In fact, he will be back on campus this weekend for an official visit. He will announce his college decision May 19th between Notre Dame and Texas.
Colt Ellison is another Texas product with considerable interest in Notre Dame. The offer came on February 27, but that didn’t stop Ellison from quickly setting up an official visit. According to irishillustrated.com, Ellison will also be on campus this weekend. This could be when Notre Dame takes the lead on this recruitment and never relinquishes it.
Long-time Notre Dame target, Joseph Anderson, is still a name to monitor. If you keep up with Notre Dame recruiting, this is a name many people have pegged to end up in South Bend since his offer. However, if you peak at the 247sports.com crystal ball, there has been a recent slew of South Carolina predictions for Anderson. With no set announcement date, there is still plenty of time for Notre Dame to continue the strong relationship they have with the Tennessee native.
Recently offered, Howard Cross III, is another target that set up a visit shortly after his offer. According to irishillustrated.com, Cross will make the trek west from New Jersey to South Bend for the Blue-Gold game on the weekend of April 21st. He comes from great bloodlines, as hid dad was a star at Alabama and later played 13 years in the NFL with the New York Giants. Right now, Notre Dame looks like a major player for the four-star defensive end.
Name to Monitor
Full disclosure…I fully expect some of these names to be apart of the 2019 class, but I either think Notre Dame trails in their recruitment or has names higher up on the board.
Kansas high school product, Marcus Hicks, was in consideration for one of the top targets, but to put it frankly I don’t expect Notre Dame to land him. Outside of Osafo-Mensah, he is likely the highest upside player on this list. He has visited Notre Dame in the past and an official visit is likely, so there is certainly optimism. He would be a tremendous addition to the 2019 class.
A target that Notre Dame is surprisingly in on very early considering his ranking on recruiting services, Josiah Miamen, received an offer last week. The offer pushed his Power 5 offer list up to three, but this could be where the regional prospect’s offer list starts to take shape. Notre Dame should have a great shot at landing him if they push for his commitment.
Adam Berghorst is a big boy standing at 6’7 and 245 pounds according to his 247sports.com profile. Notre Dame extended an offer back in February, and he has since been down to South Bend twice. The home-state Spartans of Michigan State hold the edge on the crystal ball, but it looks as though Notre Dame is firmly in discussion.
The last player worth mentioning is Columbus, Ohio defensive tackle, Rodas Johnson. I debated whether or not to include him considering his position, but it was recently reported by irishillustrated.com that Notre Dame has spoken to Johnson about playing strong-side end. He could very well be a top target of the staff. If it were up to me, Johnson would be an immediate take regardless of position.
This is a position group Notre Dame cannot afford to strike out on. It is imperative they land not only bodies, but quality bodies at the end spots. In football, everything revolves around the quarterback.
Landing Elite quarterbacks, protecting those elite quarterbacks, and terrorizing opposing quarterbacks is what every team dreams of doing. Until Notre Dame can consistently do the third, it will be a major topic of discussion surrounding the team.