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This Guy Plays Notre Dame Football: #18 NaNa Osafo-Mensah, Defensive Lineman

Can the highly-regarded junior DE find a way to stay healthy and break into a crowded and experienced rotation in 2021?

NaNa Osafo-Mensah
Brendan McAlinden

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, once again, 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 2021 season.

#18 NaNa Osafo-Mensah, DL

NaNa Osafo-Mensah was a HUGE get when he committed to and later signed with ND in the 2019 recruiting class — and not just because he has an exceptional name.

The 6’3”, 224-lb DE prospect out of Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth, TX was a 4-star player and considered a consensus top-300 guy (#298 overall and #17 WDE in 247sports composite rankings). He played in the All-American Bowl in San Antonio and held offers from just about all the big-hitters (Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Oregon, Texas A&M, USC, etc.).

Furthermore, he was a top defensive player in the state of Texas — specifically a pass rusher — which was exactly the kind of recruit ND has struggled to pull over the last couple decades, and especially in the BK era. So, Osafo-Mensah’s commitment to Clark Lea and co. was certainly considered a big-time win.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 Camping World Bowl - Notre Dame v Iowa State Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Unfortunately, this top-flight pass rusher from the Longhorn state has yet to really find a way to influence things on the field. As a true freshman in 2019, he only managed to play in the 2 biggest blowouts of the season (New Mexico and Bowling Green), notching one tackle in the New Mexico game, his collegiate debut.

Then, a torn meniscus in the summer of 2020 led to surgery, and then ultimately, being held out of all action last season — meaning Osafo-Mensah lost a key sophomore season of development and potential PT.

The good news is that, heading into 2021, NaNa has literally all his eligibility remaining thanks to redshirting his freshman year and last season not counting against anyone. So he’s still got PLENTY of time left to become a contributor, despite being a rising junior.

The Restaurant That Fits

Torchy’s Tacos

I’ve heard a decent amount about this regional taco chain based in Austin with various locations in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Colorado, and Louisiana — and all reports from friends who’ve dined on their tacos are that it’s very good stuff.

However, since I have yet to truly experience Torchy’s wonderful tacos, I felt this was a solid choice for Osafo-Mensah, a player from Texas who we all know has the potential and hype to be very good but who we’ve yet to see any of that production from in his 2 seasons in a gold helmet.

Texas Motor Speedway’s Universal Technical Institute Friday Night Drags Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

2021 Outlook

Unfortunately, 2021 will probably be similar to 2019 for Osafo-Mensah, as he currently appears to be buried on the depth chart a bit and probably won’t see much meaningful action at DE. Guys like Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Isaiah Foskey, Justin Ademilola, and Jordan Botelho all look like they’ve established themselves as starters/key rotation guys, and then Osafo-Mensah will also face competition from fellow junior Osita Ekwonu and monster sophomore Alex Ehrensberger for whatever paltry amount of snaps are remaining at defensive end.

If NaNa can start working his way into the rotation a bit later in the year (whether due to development/earning PT in practice or just natural season attrition calling for him to see some time), then maybe that plus him staying healthy can set him up to be squarely in the mix at the position in 2022 and beyond after guys like Tagovailoa-Amosa and Ademilola depart for greener pastures.

Until then, expect Osafo-Mensah to see limited time on defense and maybe a solid amount of snaps on special teams in 2021.

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