National Signing Day started off on a sour note for Notre Dame with cornerback Russ Yeast sticking with his Louisville commitment, but the Irish have since landed three new defenders now that Kofi Wardlow has selected Notre Dame over Maryland. Wardlow had been committed to Maryland since the end of last year but the Irish zeroed in on him in January. Earlier today the Irish landed Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa from Hawaii and Jeremiah Osuwu-Koramoah.
Notre Dame needed a pass rusher in this class. Now they have one. Kofi Wardlow, a 6-4, 230 lbs DE out of the Washington DC area, gives Notre Dame a raw defensive end with a lot of upside to go with a trio of Darnell Ewell, Kurt Hinish, and Myron Tagovailoa.
Kofi Wardlow comes to Notre Dame having only played a few years of organized football after focusing on basketball earlier in his prep career. That level of inexperience is what makes him such an intriguing prospect for the Irish. Will he continue to develop and use those raw tools to become the kind of pass rusher Notre Dame has been lacking or will we look back in four to five years and still be asking that question?
Without a defensive end in this year’s class, Notre Dame was able to roll the dice and take that chance and it could end up paying off big time for them down the road. You can’t teach the raw physical tools Wardlow has to work with but you can refine technique and teach the fundamentals that a player that’s only played a couple of years still needs to develop.
Notre Dame came into this week with Wardlow and Jalen Harris left on the board at weak-side defensive end. Harris stuck with Arizona on Tuesday night, but the Irish were still able to lock up Wardlow to round out the defensive line. Harris reminded me a lot of a Justin Tuck type prospect – a tall, thin edge rusher with a lot of room to grow. Wardlow isn’t quite the same prospect in terms of build, but can be a similar prospect in terms of development.
Aside from needing to work on fundamentals, it’s tough to project whether Wardlow fits in more at the weak-side where recruiting services rank him or if he continues to grow into more of a strong-side defensive end.
Notre Dame was able to pry Wardlow away from Maryland where he had been committed and kept him away from Virginia Tech who was hot on his trail at the 11th hour as well.
As a senior, Wardlow racked up 84 tackles with 28 TFL, 9.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles for St. John’s High in Washington, DC.
There is a lot to like in this addition to the class of 2017 for Notre Dame. I’ve stated a few times now that given Notre Dame’s success recruiting pass rushers, the Irish should focus more on prospects like Wardlow and Harris who are raw and need to be developed. The reality of the situation is that Notre Dame will always struggle to land day one impact edge rushers compared to say an Alabama, but it can thrive on defense if they make a habit of developing pass rushers. It’s been a long time since they were able to do that.
Mike Elko and Mike Elston have their work cut out for them here, but the reward could be very big for the Irish down the road.