Notre Dame football: Five potential breakout players on defense in 2020

Notre Dame football (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Notre Dame football (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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The Notre Dame football team appears to have another solid defensive unit entering the 2020 season. We examine five potential breakout players on defense.

The Notre Dame football team has some major holes to fill in their defensive unit following an offseason that saw them lose seven defensive players to the NFL either through the NFL Draft or as undrafted free agent signings.

The Irish lost Julian Okwara, Troy Pride Jr., Khalid Kareem, Alohi Gilman, Jalen Elliott, Asmar Bilal, and Jamir Jones, who all moved on from the collegiate realm to professional status. The impact of these significant losses should not be discounted.

Certainly losing their two top defensive ends in Okwara and Kareem, as well as Jones leaves a void in the pass rush. Bilal was the team’s second-leading tackler last season. Meanwhile, Pride Jr., Gilman, and Elliott comprised three-quarters of the Notre Dame defensive backfield.

As a result, the Notre Dame football team will look to replace 332 total tackles, 15 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, and four interceptions that the departing group of defensive players produced last season. This is no minor feat for head coach Brian Kelly and defensive coordinator Clark Lea heading into the 2020 season.

Luckily, the Notre Dame football program has increased the depth and talent of their roster in recent seasons, thanks to vastly improved recruiting results from Kelly and his staff. As a result, the Notre Dame football team is expected to have a very talented defensive unit again this season.

The team benefits from having their leading tackler, team leader in interceptions, and a player who tied for the lead in forced fumbles all returning this season. Additionally, the Irish defense should benefit significantly from the additions of transfers Isaiah Pryor and Nick McLoud, as well as a 2020 recruiting class that many experts ranked in the top 10, despite the fact that they offered fewer than normal scholarships.

With the departure of the aforementioned players, there are a number of players who will receive significant increases in the number of defensive snaps they see this season. Additionally, players will receive different defensive assignments that may better fit their strengths.

As a result, a number of Notre Dame football defensive players are poised to have breakout seasons in 2020. Here is a look at five defensive players for the Fighting Irish who could make huge impacts and play a major role in the Notre Dame football team’s National Championship hopes next season: