Notre Dame Football: A Look at the Defensive End Position in 2020

Notre Dame football (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Notre Dame football (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Notre Dame defensive ends
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

With the losses of two of the best defensive ends in recent Notre Dame history, we examine how will the position rebound this fall for the Irish.

There is no denying that losing both Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem hurts Notre Dame greatly. The pair combined to be one of the most lethal defensive end duos Notre Dame football has seen in quite some time.

While the 2019 season did not provide the ridiculous stats many projected from them, Okwara and Kareem were still very potent. In the eight games they played in together this season before Okwara suffered a season-ending broken left fibula, they racked up 31 tackles, five forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries.

If that isn’t the definition of wreaking havoc in an opponent’s backfield — I don’t know what is.

Injuries at the defensive end position seem to be common at all levels of football, making the depth of the position so vitally important. Notre Dame is not immune to the injury bug that seems to plague defensive ends as was witnessed last season in a big way.

Okwara only played in 8 games and missed the last 5 with the broken fibula mentioned before.

Kareem had a slew of injuries and came off the field injured more than a few times but never missed a game.

Daelin Hayes suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder during the third game of the season against Virginia.

The list goes on.

The last injury — Hayes’ —, however, can be seen as a blessing in disguise. Because of the NCAA’s redshirt rule, Hayes is eligible to return in the fall because he only appeared in three contests for Notre Dame in 2019.

Now, rather than losing all three of Okwara, Kareem and Hayes, Notre Dame now just loses the first two. Hayes brings important experience and leadership to the defensive end position that lacks it currently.

So, after Hayes, who’s next?