Ethan Johnson has gotten a lot of playing time for a true freshman this year, but it wasn’t until Wednesday night that he really emerged. Against Hawaii last night, Johnson recorded three of Notre Dame’s eight sacks and spent most of the night in the Hawaii backfield.
Johnson is going to be counted on to step into a starting role next year with the graduations of Pat Kuntz and Justin Brown so his big game is a very promising sign that he’ll be able to do just that.
It’s been a while since Notre Dame has had a legit pass rushing threat. Justin Tuck was the last defensive end to provide the Irish with a consistent pass rush. If Wednesday nigth is any indication though, it looks as though Johnson might be capable of providing the Irish defense with that same pass rush.
Before we get too carried away though, Hawaii’s pass protection has been awful all season. Hawaii had given up 49 sacks heading into the game giving them 57 sacs allowed on the season after Notre Dame’s eight sack effort. Any time a defensive end gets you three sacks as a true freshman though it’s a very promising sign.
Now if we can just get a couple of Johnson’s defensive line classmates to emerge this off-season, we could have the makings of a very good young defense next year.