Not much went right for Notre Dame yesterday in their Rose Bowl loss to top-ranked Alabama, but the Irish did get a bit of good news on Saturday. Irish Illustrated’s Tim Prister reported earlier today that senior NT Kurt Hinish will take advantage of the NCAA’s free year of eligibility in 2020 and return for a 5th year.
Hinish should have had a year of eligibility in 2021 regardless, but because of recruiting misses years ago, he was thrust into a prominent reserve role in 2017. Since then, Hinish has been a mainstay in the Irish lineup, including starting the last two seasons alongside classmate Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa.
Getting Hinish back in 2021 is a big boost for a defensive line that could have had to replace all four starters. As is, Hinish is the only confirmed starter returning though Tagovailoa-Amosa could use the free year from the NCAA as well.
Hinish had a career-high 7.5 tackles for loss this season, including 2.0 sacks. That was an improvement from his 4.5 tackles for loss as a junior in 2019. He has 14.5 TFL in his career to go along with 5.5 sacks. Hinish figures to improve upon those totals with another off-season working with Matt Balis. Hinish also figures to be one of Notre Dame’s captains for 2021.
Notre Dame’s interior defensive line should once again be one of the best in the country with Hinish back. Jacob Lacey didn’t play that much this year after getting banged up early, but he and Hinish provide a great 1-2 punch at NT for the Irish. Should MTA return, he might cede even more reps to Jayson Ademilola, who has quietly become Notre Dame’s most disruptive lineman.
This year, more so than any other, there will be a lot of moving parts on the roster with the free year from the NCAA. Notre Dame could be replacing up to six defensive starters this off-season, even with Hinish returning. Daelin Hayes, Ade Ogeundeji, Drew White, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Tagovailoa-Amosa, and Shaun Crawford could all move on after this year. Of that group, White and MTA would seem to be the most likely to return.