Notre Dame Football Fall Camp 2018: What To Watch For on Defense

Notre Dame Safety Jalen Elliott

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.

Defensive Line

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.

Linebacker

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.

Cornerback

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.

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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.

Safety

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.

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6 comments

  1. Greg Kelly 4 months ago

    Was hoping JT Daniels wouldn’t make the cover of SI til our game, but, there could be encore if He survives.

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  2. Brad 4 months ago

    I think the defense and Coach Lea will be good this year. But I think they are really going to be nasty in a year or two. They are building something unlike anything ND has seen in quite a while.

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  3. southside 4 months ago

    The 2017 D was pretty good — except when it came to a Wake Forest QB and Miami QB Rosier who did “a Wimbush” on Irish D running at will for huge chunks of yardage. Yes , mistakes by Wimbush put Hurricanes in down hill field position — but still no excuse for Irish D to let Rosier run to day light like he did. Irish return a defensive unit this season 2018 better than last season. If the term “Irish are loaded” with returning talent and excellent crop of under class men in the mix — I agree. As Duranko/MTA and others will point out — this 2018 defense is solid from the front four — to linebackers — to Dbacks & safeties. Kelly and his staff need to get better also when it comes to playing the Big Boy’s on the schedule. Make in game adjustments/decisions. It’s crucial and the difference of being 9-3 or 11-1.

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  4. Greg Kelly 4 months ago

    The defense I feel a little squeamish, losing Elko. However with lots of returnees and Duranko previously describing our solid anchors and how important they are I feel more soothed. The Notre Dame Defense will rise to the occasion.

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    1. Bruce Gregory Curme 4 months ago

      I have complete confidence in Coach Lea.

      BGC ’77 ’82

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      1. ndcrazymike 4 months ago

        I agree BGC I think coach LEA will have a good solid DEFENSE!! And remember this is year 2 he will have a much better idea of the strengths and abilitys of the players he has!! He also has PROVEN to be able to recruit better than any D-COORDINATORS weve had in a loooong time in just 1 year!!!

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