Yesterday we took a look at what to watch for on the offensive side of the ball as Notre Dame gets set to kick off fall camp for 2018. Today we move to the other side of the line and look at the Irish defense. On the heels of a major bounce back year the Irish defense returns a lot of talent and depth, but also faces the unenviable tasks of playing under its fourth defensive coordinator in three years following the departure of Mike Elko.
With most of the starters locked in on defense, most of the questions here are more about where a loaded freshman class can make an impact this fall. Notre Dame signed a stacked defensive class on all three levels of the defense and those frosh have their eyes set on earning playing time.
What Can The Freshmen Offer At Defensive Tackle?
Defensive end is loaded, and the inside is set with Jerry Tillery and Jonathan Bonner. What’s behind them, however, isn’t as set in stone. Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa had strong springs, but there is always room for playmaking inside, and newcomers Jayson Ademilola and Ja’Mion Franklin could break their way into the lineup with strong showings as pass rushers, something not often seen on the interior, but where Franklin and Ademilola excel.
Can Asmar Bilal Hold Off The Youth At Rover?
Rover is the most fascinating position on the team. There is a veteran in Asmar Bilal, the waiting in the wings redshirt freshman in Jeremiah Owusu-Karamoah, and fast rising star true frosh Shayne Simon, who has been getting rave reviews during summer workouts. Like, people are raving about him and his potential.
There is a scenario where Bilal plays against power teams like Michigan and Stanford, while the younger players go against the Florida States, Wake Forest’s and the Syracuse’s of the world. It is easy to see that Owusu-Karamoah and Simon are good enough against the run to mitigate Bilal’s advantage there, and while Bilal is a good athlete, the two younger players are far superior to him in that area.
Whatever the case, Rover appears to be in good hands for the next four plus seasons.
Who Among The Freshmen Is Competing For Time?
The starters are set. The coaches know Shaun Crawford can play, but the loss of Nick Watkins removed a starting caliber player from the roster. Joe Wilkins has been moved to wide receiver, which leaves Tariq Bracy, Noah Boykin, and DJ Brown to try and break into the two deep to provide some depth outside of Donte Vaughn, and prevent a move of Nick Coleman back to corner, where he struggled quite a bit in 2016.
DJ Brown has been mentioned frequently as one of those impressing onlookers in the summer and Noah Boykin has Shane Walton like confidence, so these could be interesting battles throughout fall camp.
Can Houston Griffith Force His Way Into The Starting Lineup?
Rounding out the list of freshman who have impressed those watching, Griffith has consistently been excellent since his move from corner to safety in the spring. Barring injury, Griffith will be receiving real snaps against the Wolverines as a rotation player, and there is an opening for Griffith to usurp Jalen Elliott in the starting lineup.
It’s hard not to root for Griffith here. He’s the highest rated player in this latest recruiting class, and he brings a pedigree to the position not seen in a while. He has corner skills, safety size, good instincts, and nose for the football. Pretty much everything you want. I wrote when he signed he was the type of player who starts for three seasons at Ohio State. Could that dynamic play out for the Fighting Irish? It sure looks that way right now.