On National Signing Day, we gave a review of the 2016 class and our scores for each player. We went into more detail about the offensive backfield, then took a look at the receivers, then the offensive linemen. We're switching to the other side of the ball today to review the defensive linemen - or, more appropriately, the defensive ends, as the Notre Dame staff was content to limit their 2016 strategy at defensive tackle to a swing for the fences with a very select group of elite prospects. As you might imagine, this has been quite the point of debate within the fan base (drink!).
The transcript of Coach Brian Kelly's press conference on national signing day can be found here.
|Irish Defensive Line Signees|
|.937||Daelin Hayes||Ann Arbor, MI||6-4/249||Defensive End/Linebacker|
|.921||Khalid Kareem||Farmington, MI||6-4/260||Defensive End|
|.898||Julian Okwara||Charlotte, NC||6-4/220||Defensive End|
|.859||Ade Ogundeji||Walled Lake, MI||6-5/225||Defensive End|
Official OFD Recruit Grading Scale:
95-100: Elite impact freshman with All-American potential
90-94: Multi-year starter with All-conference potential
85-89: Eventual starter with chance to play as underclassman
80-84: Raw prospect with decent potential but a couple years away from impact
75-79: Likely a backup
70-74: Reach by the coaching staff
DE/LB Daelin Hayes
OFD Average: 91.3
Hayes has played only six games of varsity football over the last two years, but was still a Rivals five-star and their #31 overall recruit. Why? Because athletically, the sky is the limit with this kid. He has the flexibility to either be a freakishly powerful linebacker or a freakishly quick defensive end, depending on how his physique develops. We list him as a defensive end here because we all think that's his inevitable landing spot; he's already almost 260, so it's hard to imagine him staying at a linebacker weight, but it's possible. Enrolling early is a fantastic advantage for him that could possibly give him a springboard to early playing time, especially if he shows an ability to rush the passer. He could be special. On the other hand... Six games in two years, man, with time lost both seasons to shoulder injuries. That's a concern. If he can stay healthy, though, Hayes has all the potential to be a monster.
From the little high school football highlights available he's overwhelmingly physical against the competition in front of him. Hayes has really strong and heavy hands. He's quick to attack and get into his opponents body with a lot of force. Plays with the brute strength of a stocky interior lineman. Combines a physical close-to-the-line maturity with good speed in the open field as a runner. The shoulder injuries and tweener position are going to be concerns and prevent me from handing out a higher grade than he probably deserves based on his athleticism. Hayes is already heavier than every Irish linebacker so long-term it's doubtful he sticks at this position absent a change in defensive philosophy which would put him in a Vonn Miller linebacker role in a 3-4 system. He should find a home on the line rather quickly and might not be an instant impact player there. I've got a feeling there will be consternation about him not making the mark as a freshman but I believe he might be best served taking a redshirt, getting stronger, and preparing himself for the defensive line. Still, he's in early so it'll be really tough for someone this talented to sit out with so much time to prepare. Hopefully he finds a home and doesn't get lost stuck between positions. Reminds me a lot of a more athletic Doug Randolph coming out of high school.
Jamie U: 93
No one has a bigger athletic upside than Hayes and no one is a bigger enigma. He just hasn't played enough football to project how good he will be at Notre Dame. Physically he has everything you look for a dominant edge rusher. He is a twitchy athlete with outstanding coordination. I don't know how healthy he is right now or how healthy he will be for spring. To me, that is largely going to determine if he can compete for playing time this fall. He needs the reps more than anything. If he is ready to go this spring, he might be too talented of an athlete to keep off the field in the fall. He s explosive enough to rush and fluid enough to drop into coverage and cover like a much smaller player. What Romeo Okwara was asked to do this year in coverage is what I can see Hayes doing and doing much better than Okwara could do. For the long term, he could end up developing into a double digit sack player and the best edge rusher the Irish have had since Justin Tuck.
DE Khalid Kareem
OFD Average: 92.3
Just a prototype strong-side defensive end prospect and, with Daelin Hayes, a guy who completely changed the picture on defensive line recruiting in this class; he has excellent physical skills already with a near-college sized frame and room to grow, and shows some advanced technical ability. When he enrolled in January he was listed at 6'3" and 245 pounds; I could easily see him being over 260 by the time camp opens in August. He has freakish strength and an explosive first step that combine, even as a freshman, to make him a potentially difficult matchup. I don't expect him to be a world-beater from day one, but I absolutely expect him to see the field early and often this year and probably earn a starting role in 2017, after Isaac Rochell is gone.
Kareem looks like an advanced lineman with good technique with his hands. Displays really good quickness off the ball and does a great job using his hands to put him in position to make plays in the backfield. Ideal combination of speed and physicality for a strong-side end prospect. Nice frame for some more weight with long limbs and an athletic physique. I'm a little curious to see how Kareem takes on weight early in his career. From a talent standpoint he can play as a freshman if he's big and strong enough especially since he's already on campus and will get a full spring practice. He feels like someone with Isaac Rochell-type of a ceiling, with God willing, a little more disruption in the backfield and ability to create negative plays.
Jamie U: 93
One of my favorite recruits in this class. Has great snap anticipation and is very strong technically at this stage of his development. He shows great block recognition and has a great feel for pressure against him. Him being on campus early means he'll have a head start on playing this season, but even without that, I think he may have been good enough to get to Notre Dame in the summer. I think he'll be in the two deep and be a rotational player from day one. He has the frame to potentially grow into a three technique and be a swing player who can contribute across the defensive front.
DE Julian Okwara
OFD Average: 89.7
There's an obvious connection to Romeo, Julian's older brother, who didn't blossom at Notre Dame until his senior year. Some have drawn that comparison already, but there's one enormous difference between them. Romeo is 20 right now, and Julian is 18; at enrollment, Julian will be only a year and half younger than Romeo will be when he goes through the NFL combine. Also, very importantly, Julian is just a better prospect; he has shown good speed and power already, with a frame to really add good weight. He also uses his hands pretty well for an unpolished guy, which bodes well for what Keith Gilmore will be able to do with him when he gets into the program. He's raw but has huge upside, potentially developing into the speed rusher we seem to always lack.
You'd like to get someone like Okwara with his physical profile every cycle. He's really long and lanky with a quick first step. He doesn't always time the snap too well but when he moves it's like watching him burst in fast-forward. He has all the tools to become a very potent pass rusher. Not overly physical but plays strong. He overwhelms opponents with his speed and gets into their bodies really quickly. If he can combine that with enough power to match college offensive linemen it'll be a great career in South Bend. Okwara gets through traffic with ease and can shake off blockers without much problem. Uses his arms and hands to tackle a little too much but that's largely due to his speed and playing against inferior athletic competition--he nearly over-runs the ball carrier a lot. He's just so fast that he arrives at the ball carrier before his brain can process the ability to deliver devastating and fundamentally sounds tackles. A little undervalued due to comparisons with his brother but a rather important piece to this class. Okwara has the skill-set to be the starting weak-side defensive end in a couple years.
Jamie U: 91
I'm very high on Okwara and his potential. He is a better athlete and a better football player than his older brother was coming into Notre Dame. He has some more "dog" in him as well. He is a big time effort player and that can a long way with a pass rusher. Throw that together with his short area quickness and length and that's a lot for Keith Gilmore to work with. He needs to get stronger to hold up better at the point of attack and it's probably best that he doesn't play right away. However, he might just flash enough to see some reps in some sub-packages this season if the Irish are struggling to find a pass rush.
DE Ade Ogundeji
OFD Average: 82.7
It's hard to know what to make of Ogundeji, who is by far the most raw player of this class and on top of that lost his senior season to injury when it was only a few games old. What we do know is that once the staff saw him in person, they pushed hard to lock him up very quickly before too many other schools saw him. They must've seen something that they really liked. The beauty here is that with the recruiting of the last couple of cycles, Notre Dame can afford to stash Ogundeji and let him focus completely on development for two or even three years before he's needed. His physical ceiling is very high - he's athletic with a big frame that can easily add good weight - so if he can put it together with good coaching, he could be one of those late bloomers who seemingly come out of nowhere.
A really smart type of a project player. Ideal length for the edge and really young with plenty of time to get much, much bigger. He's a lot less raw than his rankings would lead you believe. Ogundeji has a nice burst and uses his giant paws really well when engaging linemen. Impressive coordination for his age in combination with his height and length. He has more of a basketball frame but plays with a physicality that makes him look like a future college football player. Quite excited to see him develop. I'm not sure if he'll stay lean enough or is explosive enough to play on the weak-side. Ideally, he can sit for a couple years and be an excellent strong-side end while growing into this body. With his measureables Ogundeji has a high ceiling but it will take a lot of work to fulfill that promise.
Jamie U: 83
It's unfortunate that injury prevented Ade from playing during most of his senior season because I think he would have a had a chance to break out. He also could have used the reps. This is a long term signing that Keith Gilmore is going to get to work with and I'm sure he is excited about the tools Ogundeji possesses. You can't teach the traits he has. He is going to need time to develop physically and on the field, but the upside is there for him to be a very good edge player for the Irish.