Mike Elston has been a busy man the last month. A few weeks back, he helped secure Tyson Ford’s commitment with a big-time assist from new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman. Yesterday, Elston helped upgrade Notre Dame’s pass rush even more with a commitment from Aiden Gobaira – a big, raw pass rusher with the potential to ranked much higher than he currently is by the time he enrolls at Notre Dame next year.
Aiden Gobaira has still yet to play his junior season since the state of Virginia pushed its football season to the spring, but he already measures in a 6’6”, 230 lbs. The lack of junior year in part explains his current 3-star rating. With a full junior year, Gobaira has the looks of a player who should see his stock rise quite a bit.
As a sophomore, Gobaira showed a great burst off the edge, and some advanced pass rush moves for a player as young as he was in 2019. It will be exciting to see how much better he looks in the spring season – starting this month for the Chantilly, Virginia native – because he has all of the physical skills to be an elite pass-rushing defensive end.
Before committing to Notre Dame, Gobaira held offers from Penn State, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Michigan State, and Louisville, among others. That is the exact kind of offer list you’d expect from a prospect from the Mid-Atlantic region before a junior season. Expect that list too more national programs once he completes his junior and senior seasons.
Penn State was considered the favorite for a while here, but Notre Dame made a late push to secure the commitment before Gobaira’s junior season. A recent, self-guided visit to Notre Dame was enough to seal the deal for the Fighting Irish. Like with Tyson Ford, Marcus Freeman’s presence on the Notre Dame football coaching staff didn’t hurt at all either.
Aiden Gobaira very much fits the profile of the kind of defensive ends that Notre Dame has targetted in recent years in terms of being under the radar at the moment, but he doesn’t fit the mold in terms of build. Julian Okwara, Khalid Kareem, Daelin Hayes, and Ade Ogundeji were all listed around 6’4”. Even Isiah Foskey, one of the lankier defensive ends the Irish have landed, is listed at just a shade under 6’5” on the official roster. Gobaira adds some great length to the defensive end position for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame took two developmental weak-side ends in 2021 with Will Schweitzer and Devin Auipu. Gobaira isn’t in that same mold, even though he only carries the 3-star distinction at the moment. Gobaira will likely end up as a 4-star prospect with a full junior and senior season before he ever enrolls at Notre Dame. If he continues to fill out that 6”6’ frame, he’ll also report more physically advanced than some of the other raw defensive ends Notre Dame has recruited over the last few years.
Long-term, it’s possible that Gobaira grows into a strong-side defensive end on the collegiate level, but at the moment, he is considered a pass-rushing weak-side end, or VYPER in Notre Dame terminology. With his frame, it’s very easy to imagine a scenario in which he plays on the strong-side, though. Having a lanky, long-armed end like Gobaira coming off of the weak-side is very enticing as well, though.
Even with Gobaira and Ford committed for Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish are still in the market for another end in the class of 2022. There are plenty of big-time prospects left the Irish have the eyes on, and with the duo they have committed already, Notre Dame can be very focused on a select few elite prospects to fill that void. With Ford and Gobaira’s size, that last end should be a pure pass rusher.
The bottom line here is Notre Dame got itself an excellent prospect whose best football is still very much ahead of him. And for the fans who are focused solely on star rankings, I wouldn’t get too caught up in Gobaira’s current ratings. If he continues to develop as expected, it wouldn’t be surprising in the least if he added a fourth start sometime over the summer after his junior year tape makes the rounds.