It’s an exciting time in the midwest and for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. I mean, temperatures be damned — we just had two whole days of beautiful sunshine. BREAKOUT THE CHUBBIES AND THE JET SKIS!
But enough of all that.
Notre Dame entered this spring with a lot of work to do with the roster and the depth chart, and knowing very well that neither will be truly in focus until the fall, they are inching toward some fairly lucid territory. Here is a quick rundown of where they are sitting across the board:
Notre Dame is completely stocked at defensive end with a solid 4 deep. Khalid Kareem, Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Jamir Jones, and NaNa Osafo-Mensah are on the strong side while Julian Okwara, Daelin Hayes, Justin Ademilola, and Ovie Oghoufo at the drop end.
A full four, but mostly we will be seeing a rotation within that 2 deep. Jamir Jones will likely take a redshirt as a senior this year — but obviously with the new redhsirt rule we will see a decent amount of work from Jones in four games this year.
This is our Rolls Royce group.
With little exception, the linebacker depth chart had the most questions coming into spring. Clark Lea has already gone on record that there is no depth chart this spring, and this competition will go into fall camp.
With that said... things are starting to shape up. It appears that Asmar Bilal is starting to takeover at the MIKE with an injured Drew White and the combo of Bo Bauer and Jonathan Jones not making mush headway. That leaves a spot at the BUCK which is currently be occupied by Shayne Simon with competition from Jordan Genmark Heath and Jack Lamb. All of THAT leaves the ROVER to Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and the newly moved Paul Moala. Lamb is involved in the NICKEL package at the BUCK and is paired with Asmar at MIKE.
All of this still seems very messy and just as Lea said, this is going to carryover into the fall.
Thin on big bodies. Flat out, it’s Myron Tagovailola-Amosa and Kurt Hinish at the 3 technique and nose respectively, and then they are backed up by Jayson Ademilola and Jacob Lacey. Keeping everyone healthy will be key for the spring as we wait (and hope) for further depth with a healthy duo of Hunter Spears and JaMion Franklin in the fall. Also... Darnell Ewell is still here.
Without a doubt Troy Pride Jr. is the man at the field corner, and will have an experienced TaRiq Bracy behind him. It’s also becoming much clearer that Houston Griffith is the answer at the boundary with Noah Boykin getting some reps there as well.
There isn’t a whole lot of mystery here.
With Alohi Gilman sitting out with an abdominal strain, Notre Dame is able to get a little more work in for the other safeties not names Jalen Elliott. It is certainly Gilman and Elliott on the frontline (and possibly both captains) but there is work to be done behind them. Derrik Allen is fighting for a role and by most accounts is looking the part, and D.J. Brown is making some waves after being moved from corner to start the spring.
It gets a bit interesting here. Avery Davis is getting a big look at the NICKEL, but with Shaun Crawford still recovering from an injury and Kyle Hamilton not yet enrolled (June) — Davis could find himself in a similar position as last year. In 2018, Davis was a name that was mentioned quite a bit after moving from quarterback to running back, but failed to get more playing time as the season moved forward.
I can’t stress enough how important having a functional nickel defense is moving forward. It was Notre Dame’s weakest link in 2018, although it allowed young players to get experience to help them in 2019.
I think the defense is actually coming together pretty well despite injuries and uncertainty at defensive tackle and linebacker. Personally I feel that the linebacker group is much farther away than just finding correct fits. There is talent there to be sure, but I’m worried the “best 3” may not be out there a majority of time. We are just going to have to keep watching and waiting until those 3 that do become the starters really emerge.