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Jacob Lacey
Brendan McAlinden

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This Guy Plays Notre Dame Football: #54 Jacob Lacey, Defensive Tackle

Let’s talk about one of the main men in the middle — but not yet one of the starters — on Marcus Freeman’s defense

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.

#54 Jacob Lacey, DT

Jacob Lacey arrived at Notre Dame as a top-5 prospect in the Notre Dame 2019 class according to the 247sports.com composite ratings — only Kyle Hamilton, Zeke Correll, and Quinn Carroll rated higher among the Irish’s signees that year.

A 6’2”, 285-lb defensive tackle from South Warren High School in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Lacey was a 4-star recruit ranked 172nd nationally and as the 15th-best defensive tackle in the class of 2019, boasting offers from Clemson, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Louisville, Kentucky, and more.

However, Lacey was a big ND guy early on, committing to play for then-defensive coordinator Mike Elko in July 2017. Nothing he saw in the next 17 months caused him to waver or even visit another school, and he signed in December 2018 to play for Clark Lea, who by then had taken over for Elko and led the Irish defense to a College Football Playoff in his first season.

After enrolling early, Lacey saw action in 11 games during his freshman season of 2019, recording 14 tackles (1.5 for loss), half a sack, and a QB hurry.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 26 Notre Dame at Michigan Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

His best game probably came against Virginia, when he contributed 3 tackles and assisted on a sack in a well-fought win over a quality opponent.

Last year, Lacey was again very much in the rotation along the defensive line. He played in 11 of 12 games, but didn’t make a big statistical contribution on his own, recording just 4 total tackles (1 TFL) and 1 pass break-up on the season.

The Restaurant That Fits

Cold Stone Creamery

Last week, my fellow OFD staff writer Lauren Dangel gave NT Kurt Hinish a strong comparison to Dairy Queen. With that said, Lacey — Hinish’s backup/understudy at the nose tackle position — has gotta be an ice cream-based chain as well, but one that’s just not quite as old, experienced, or dominant yet.

So, I’m going with Cold Stone Creamery. It’s much younger than DQ (nearly FIFTY YEARS younger, in fact), and definitely started out with more hype as a polished, higher-end ice cream vendor than Dairy Queen’s hard-scrabble evolution into an affordable, omnipresent locale for hot eats and cool treats nationwide.

Similarly, Hinish came in as a relatively unheralded 3-star guy, but in his long time with the Irish has fought and clawed his way into being one helluva nose tackle and the unquestioned top dog at the position. Lacey came in later with a lot more hype as a more premier prospect, but still has some work to do if he wants to unseat, pass up, and/or succeed the king Queen* at this position.

*Pat Rick Note: see what I did there???

Also, I like to think Lacey will help the Irish defense stop a lot of opposing running backs stone cold at the line of scrimmage, absolutely creaming anyone who tries to run up the middle. This analogy works, I swear.

HBO LUXURY LOUNGE Presented By Obliphica Professional - Day 1 Photo by Alison Buck/Getty Images for Mediaplacement

2021 Outlook

The 6’2”, 293-lb junior still won’t be a starter in 2021, considering the experience and depth the Irish bring back up front, but Lacey will almost certainly man the #2 nose tackle role behind the experienced stalwart who is Kurt Hinish.

Like his first two seasons, #54 will definitely see plenty of PT in that role, considering how often defensive linemen need to rotate — but he isn’t gonna be starting while Hinish exists on the squad.

Hopefully, though, Lacey will continue to learn from Hinish and continue to develop into a likely starter as a senior in 2022, where he can pair with someone like Rylie Mills in the middle to wreak absolute havoc on opponents’ interior offensive linemen.

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