Marcus Freeman met with the media on Thursday, a day ahead of Notre Dame’s Gator Bowl showdown with South Carolina, and gave a status update on two starters for the Irish. Notre Dame will be without another starter, defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola, and could be down another with safety Brandon Joseph a game time decision.
Ademilola’s absence shouldn’t be a huge surprise since he was seen in street clothes at practice earlier this week – that is generally not an indication that a player is close to be ready to play in a few days. The good news for Notre Dame is that Joseph has practiced all week, according to Freeman, suggesting he at least has a chance to play tomorrow against South Carolina.
If there is anything that we’ve learned in the first year of the Marcus Freeman Era, however, it’s that the only injury update that we can bank on is when Freeman says someone is out. Other than that, all bets are off. Before Notre Dame’s regular-season finale against USC, Freeman said all week that Cam Hart was questionable. Hart was seen with his arm in a sling on the field before the game. He wasn’t close to playing that night and is out for the Gator Bowl.
With Ademilola out, Notre Dame will take the field tomorrow without the following players who started games this fall.
- QB Drew Pyne – transferred to Arizona State
- DE Isaiah Foskey – opted out
- TE Michael Mayer – opted out
- CB Cam Hart – shoulder injury
- DT Jayson Ademilola
For Ademilola, it brings an unfortunate end to his Notre Dame career since he’ll end it on the sidelines in street clothes instead of on the field after he decided against opting out. It would also have been one last chance to play with his twin brother Justin who could return for a 6th year in 2023.
With Ademilola out, Notre Dame could play Rylie Mills more on the inside, where he could end up playing in 2023. When Ademilola missed the Boston College game, Harvard transfer Chris Smith saw an uptick in snaps, but still played just 24 snaps in the game. When Ademilola missed time in the Stanford game, Smith played 63 snaps. If Mills moves inside though, Notre Dame could play Justin Ademilola more on the strong-side in his place which would open up more snaps for Jordan Botelho and freshman Junior Tuihalamaka.
Notre Dame could use the opportunity to play one of the younger linemen who haven’t played much during the season as well. Tyson Ford played just one snap this season but, with a month of practice, could conceivably be ready for an increased role. Jason Onye also played in just the Boston College game, logging 8 snaps. Aidan Keanaaina could see some action as well. The junior tore his ACL in the spring but returned at the end of the season and saw action in the same Boston College game that Notre Dame cleared off the defensive line bench in.
However Notre Dame handles its defensive line rotation, we’ll be seeing a much different look from the Irish defensive line with Foskey and Ademilola both unavailable.
At safety, Ramon Henderson is listed as Brandon Joseph’s backup, but Notre Dame doesn’t even list Xavier Watts on the depth chart, and he figures to play a lot even if Joseph is healthy enough to play. Watts played more snaps in 2023 than both Henderson and Houston Griffith. Outside of Joseph, Watts, Griffith, Henderson, and DJ Brown; no other scholarship safety recorded a snap in 2023.
If Joseph doesn’t play tomorrow, it’s very possible that Notre Dame fans have seen the Northwestern transfer for the last time since many believe he will declare for the 2023 NFL Draft. To date, however, Joseph hasn’t announce his intentions.