Defining a “breakout” player is always very subjective. Is it a player who comes out of nowhere to be a factor or a player who’s played a bit but all of a sudden becomes a dominant force? For the sake of this post, this list is a mix of both players who haven’t played much as well as players whose names you might be used to seeing but could be primed for a breakout this spring, so just know that going into this.
Isaiah Foskey (DE) – Of all of the young Notre Dame defenders on the roster this spring, I am the most excited to see what Isaiah Foskey looks like. We got a little glimpse of him against Stanford with his blocked punt. By the end of the season, he looked like anything but a redshirt freshman. With Khalid Kareem, Julian Okwara, and Jamir Jones all out of eligibility, there are going to be snaps on the defensive front in 2020. Foskey should be able to stake claim to his spot in the rotation starting this spring.
Ade Ogundeji (DE) – Speaking of the defensive line, you should be familiar with this guy by now. He’s been a rotational player each of the last two years and took on more of a role last year as injuries up front mounted. In 2020, Ade Ogundeji will step into a starting role as a 5th year senior and could be a perfect example of how Notre Dame can build elite defenses even without eight 5-star players each year. Ogundeji came to Notre Dame as a raw prospect with upside who has developed beautifully under the tutelage of Mike Elston. He has the potential to be just as good as the man he is replacing in the starting lineup.
Jayson Ademilola (DT) – By now, you should realize that I am quite bullish on the defensive line in 2020. Another name we’ve heard from time to time but not consistently is junior Jayson Ademilola. He might just be the best interior defensive lineman on the roster this year, but to date, his production has come in spurts. Junior year is prime time for a defensive line to start to assert their dominance, and no one should be surprised if that is what Ademilola starts to do this fall. Between he and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Notre Dame has ridiculous depth at DT. ]
Kevin Austin (WR) – The guy that everyone is going to be watching this spring is wide receiver Kevin Austin. The latest recipient of one of Notre Dame’s unannounced, unconfirmed suspensions in 2019, Austin is back and could be ready to explode. With Chase Claypool and Chris Finke getting ready for the NFL Combine this week, there is a lot of playing time to be had at wide receiver for Notre Dame this spring. Austin could be the most complete receiver on the roster, ready to snag that playing time. I say could because we haven’t had a chance to see much of him to date given the suspension. If he is anywhere close to the player that he is rumored to have been in practice the last year, Notre Dame’s passing game shouldn’t skip a beat.
Tommy Tremble (TE) – Some will argue that Tremble already broke out in 2019, but in reality, he was more of a complimentary piece of the offense. With Cole Kemt off to the NFL, Tremble will be a prominent weapon in the Irish offense in 2020. Last year Tremble found the endzone four times, but he only caught 16 total passes and did have more than three catches in any single game that wasn’t a total blowout (he had four against Bowling Green). And that was with Cole Kmet missing multiple games early in the season. This year Tremble should surpass his reception output from 2019 in a few weeks.
Shayne Simon (LB) – Remember how worried we were about linebacker at this point last year? How foolish was that in retrospect. We should never question Clark Lea’s ability to develop linebackers again. The next surprise at that position group could be junior Shayne Simon. The former prep star has always had elite athleticism at linebacker, but he’s never been able to find a position home. He’s played all three linebacker spots at times, but BUCK could be in his future this year with Asmar Bilal gone in 2020.
Some young linebacker is going to emerge, we know that based on the results Lea has delivered. The question, really, is who? If not Simon, there is not a shortage of other candidates here from Jack Lamb to the entire sophomore class that is dripping with potential.
Tariq Bracy (CB) – This one might happen by default since Notre Dame’s corner depth chart is so baren of experience, but Tariq Bracy has also shown us that he is capable of taking the next step of being a lockdown corner for the Irish.
Houston Griffith (S) – Remember him? He was a starter as a true freshman before getting moved around and almost forgotten last year. It’s taken a little while, but he might finally be at his most natural position at safety. Notre Dame tried him as a boundary corner and as a nickel, but being thrust into a starting nickel role as a true freshman proved to be unproductive. Now that he is back at safety, he could be one of the surprises of the spring,