The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a roster full of players, and we want to talk about them all. One Foot Down’s player profile series will take a look at every single one of them, and hopefully we all learn a little bit more about these guys, and Notre Dame’s chances for the upcoming 2020 season.
#18 NaNa Osafo-Mensah, DE
NaNa Osafo-Mensah (hereafter referred to only as NaNa, because that name is too cool to not use) is a 6’-4”, 231-pound sophomore defensive end from Fort Worth, Texas, out of Nolan Catholic High School. He still has all four years of his eligibility.
Notre Dame fans should be glad to hear that, because NaNa was one of the biggest gets of the 2019 recruiting cycle, and a caliber of pass-rushing talent that Notre Dame has struggled to recruit for a long time. His recruitment was a dogfight between Notre Dame and the Texas Longhorns, with the Irish winning his commitment in May 2018. He was noted for his versatility on the edge as both a down lineman and a standing end, excellent use of his hands and pass-rush moves, and overall athleticism on the edge. While he could play both defensive end positions in Notre Dame’s defense, it is likely that he will spend his college years on the strong side. A player with NaNa’s pass-rushing abilities on the strong side is a luxury that Notre Dame fans of four or five years ago would have only dreamt of.
Defensive coordinator Clark Lea noted in the 2019 preseason that NaNa was learning quite a bit about the college game and growing physically into his role on the edge. He played in only two games, against the Bowling Green Falcons and New Mexico Lobos and recorded one tackle in 2019.
Julius was a game-wrecking defensive end who, in addition to learning the value of teamwork and demonstrating the transformative power of friendship, racked up sacks and forced fumbles all year long for the T.C. Williams Titans on their way to state. He was a dominant player and a great teammate, and also notably sang a song whose name literally begins with “Na Na.”
Don’t be surprised to see NaNa develop into an equally effective player who can likewise yell “STRONG SIDE” at his teammates after making a big play.
Despite the departures of Julian Okwara, Khalid Kareem and Jamir Jones, Notre Dame still returns veteran starters at both defensive end positions in Daelin Hayes and Ade Ogundeji. Behind these two, however, competition is wide open. Expect to see NaNa compete with Justin Ademilola for number-two reps on the strong side. Experience often favors older players under Brian Kelly, but it will be difficult to keep NaNa’s talent off the field, and he should get meaningful minutes in 2020. Fans should be excited to see what he can do.