Don’t look now folks, but Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts along the defensive line continue to roll. On Tuesday, Notre Dame secured the commitment of Ja’Mion Franklin giving them three defensive linemen in the class of 2018 and a combined eight linemen in the last two cycles. The Irish aren’t just adding depth either. They are building a defensive line that Mike Elko can build his defense around.
It started last summer for Notre Dame. After losing Robert Beal in the spring, Notre Dame was able to secure commitments from a pair of elite 2018 recruits in twins Justin and Jayson Ademilola. Notre Dame then picked up a commitment from class of 2017 stud defensive tackle Darnell Ewell last summer – one of the most pivotal recruits in the class of ’17.
Mike Elko and the newly shuffled Notre Dame defensive staff was able to lure Kofi Wardlow from Maryland and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa to South Bend on Signing Day to join a group of three defensive linemen who had already signed their LOI’s – Jonathon MacCollister, Kurt Hinish, and Ewell.
Of last year’s signees, Ewell is the crown jewel. Lord Myron has the makings of a run stuffing, dominant interior lineman even if he was listed as a strong side defensive end by some recruiting services. Kofi Wardlow is a raw – very raw – pass rusher just scratching the surface of his potential after picking up football very late.
Had Notre Dame been able to hang on to Donovan Jeter during their disastrous 2016 campaign the talent Notre Dame has assembled would have been even more impressive, but hey, let’s try to stay positive here.
Now that Notre Dame has added Franklin to the fold for 2018, they have the makings of a dominant defensive line in this class as well. Jayson Ademilola continues to rise up the recruiting rankings and his twin brother Justin is not far behind. Both have been getting a lot of interest from Alabama since their commitments to Notre Dame, but the twin remains solid with the Irish.
Franklin meanwhile, looks like he could be a senior year riser. He’s been tearing it up on the camp circuit and his film doesn’t look like that of a 3-star recruit.
Even if the Irish didn’t add any more linemen in this class, they have a pretty good defensive line haul over a two year cycle by recent Notre Dame standards on their hands. The Irish aren’t done recruiting along the defensive line though.
Notre Dame remains heavily involved with 4-star SDE Thomas Booker. The Irish could have a long battle with Stanford on their hands for Booker, but the Maryland native is friends with Franklin and has hit it off with other Notre Dame commitments in the class of 2018. The two were teammates before Franklin transferred from Gilman to Caroline HS.
While the Irish may be fading a bit with top 100 caliber defensive tackle P.J. Mustipher (brother of starting center Sam), they are not out of the race by any means. Notre Dame will still recruit the younger Mustipher even though he is rumored to be leaning Penn State’s way at this point.
If Notre Dame were able to add Booker to the mix, this two year haul would be very impressive and would almost hit off on every need the Irish have up front.
Notre Dame Still Needs a Pure Pass Rusher
Despite the run of success in restocking the defensive line, there is still one glaring need the Irish have to fill in this year’s class. A pure pass rusher. Wardlow could develop into a big time pass rusher for Notre Dame, but he is still raw and far from a sure thing. Booker has pass rushing skills but depending on how he develops, he could end up as more of a strong side end. That and Notre Dame still has a lot of work to do to get him in the fold.
What Notre Dame is currently lacking though in these last two classes is a pure pass rusher that can come in and rush the quarterback from day one. They don’t have an Aaron Lynch type pass rusher. Daelin Hayes has the looks to be that kind of player this year if he stays healthy. Julian Okwara is developing towards being that kind of player as well. Problem is that is two players on the roster. Notre Dame needs more of them.
One other name to watch at WDE is sophomore Adetokunbo Ogundeji. Like Wardlow, he picked up football late and is still developing. He had an impressive spring though and could be part of the answer to Notre Dame’s pass rush woes in the future.
How the Incoming Frosh and Current Commits Fit
Of the eight defensive linemen either reporting to campus this summer or currently committed to Notre Dame, here is roughly how they project as of now.
- SDE: Justin Ademilola, Jonathon MacCollister
- DT: Jayson Ademilola, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Kurt Hinish
- NT: Ja’Mion Franklin, Darnell Ewell
- WDE: Kofi Wardlow
This group compliments each other very well. Franklin and Jayson Ademilola form a hell of a duo on the interior in the class of 2018. Lord Myron and Ewell are also a hell of a one-two punch inside coming to campus soon (again assuming Tagovailoa-Amosa moves inside).
Booker would likely start off as a WDE but could develop into a SDE and Hinish could grow into more of a nose tackle before all is said and done.
This might look like a lot of defensive linemen but remember two things here. 1) Mike Elko loves to rotate his defensive linemen. 2) Notre Dame’s new offense under Chip Long is expected to be FAST so there will be a big need for depth along the defensive line as the Irish defense will likely see an increased number of plays moving forward.
Most importantly though, Notre Dame is adding defensive line in numbers and they are adding players who have the potential to develop into quality starters and potential difference makers. The addition of Ja’Mion Franklin shouldn’t be overlooked because he is “just a 3-star”. Franklin has got talent and it’s been on full display in camps this spring. Don’t be surprised if he earns a 4th star before Signing Day.
Notre Dame still needs to add a pure pass rusher and they will not turn away an elite lineman if one wants to join the mix, but the talent Notre Dame has already assembled these last two classes is already impressive. If they can build on this start to the class of 2018 and pair it with the five frosh who are about to start their Irish careers, the Irish defensive line can return to the level we saw just a few years ago with the likes of Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt.