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.
#34 Osita Ekwonu, DE
Osita Ekwonu came to Notre Dame as a pretty darn highly-rated prospect in the 2019 class. At 6’2” and 220 pounds out of Charlotte, North Carolina, Ekwonu was considered a 4-star inside linebacker juuuuuust toeing the edge of the top 200 prospects in the class (#212 nationally, #14 ILB, #5 NC according to 247sports composite ratings).
He held offers from a BUNCH of top programs, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, UNC, NC State, Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisville, and various others. He also was clearly a strong student, considering not only the Irish offer but also the interest/offers he received from Princeton, Northwestern, and Duke too.
Ekwonu committed to the Irish in June of 2018, officially signing in December and then enrolling in the summer of 2019. He saw the field in 3 games as a freshman, preserving a year of eligibility while seeing time mostly on special teams against Bowling Green, Boston College, and Stanford. He recorded one tackle that year.
Last season, he saw action in 8 of the team’s 12 games, recording a handful of tackles on the year. His shining moment came against South Florida, when he not only notched two tackles on the day, but also blocked a punt that teammate Jordan Botelho recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
Over the course of his first two seasons, Ekwonu has morphed a bit from a linebacker into more of a defensive end — he now stands at 6’1”, 236 pounds.*
*Pat Rick Note: despite the fact that the height 247sports claims he was coming into ND is taller than what UND.com says he is now, I do not actually think Osita Ekwonu has shrunk in his first two seasons in South Bend. And if he has — well, that’s a whole new (and questionable) accomplishment for Matt Balis and his staff.
The Restaurant That Fits
Not only is this gem headquartered in Osita’s hometown of Charlotte, but it holds a special place in my heart as something that helped me deal with the 2015 Clemson loss in that monsoon.
My friends and I stopped here on our way to the airport after attending that wet, cold game with the miserable finish, and the Bo-Berry Biscuit I got (a blueberry biscuit just absolutely DRENCHED in icing) is likely what kept me from getting too depressed to make my flight back to the Midwest.
Here’s to hoping Osita Ekwonu can be the Bo-Berry Biscuit we as Irish fans need at some point, cheering us up with some fantastic performance we didn’t necessarily see coming.
Now please enjoy this Bojangles commercial where Steve Smith eats a fan’s chicken.
Osita Ekwonu still has a lot of career ahead of him (technically he still has ALL of his eligibility), but at least for 2021 it seems unlikely he will see the field much besides more special teams opportunities.
The defensive line is pretty stacked for the Irish right now, and at DE specifically it appears Isaiah Foskey, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Justin Ademilola, and Jordan Botelho are all likely to be in the rotation. Ekwonu could still earn a little PT, especially later in the year when injuries potentially begin to take their toll, but otherwise it’ll probably be another year where we don’t see too much from Ekwonu.
Hopefully, at the very least, he continues to develop along with the other guys still buried on the depth chart (NaNa Osafo-Mensah, Alex Ehrensberger, the 2021 freshmen). 2022 will bring a whole new world of opportunities, as it’s very likely Tagovailoa-Amosa, Foskey, and maybe even Ademilola all move on after this season. Ekwonu may have a chance to make the two-deep once those guys clear out — and perhaps even start.