The value of taking a day to get this other part out is that ND went ahead and released their official two-deep for the Louisville game:
The offense fell basically as predicted on Tuesday. The two-deep for the defense also fell with few surprises. Perhaps not a surprise but a definite endorsement for Shaun Crawford that he’s listed as a starter at corner. I had not separated out the corners on my depth chart and instead listed them based on my “confidence” in them hitting the field. I had Crawford at #2 behind Pride. Not only because Crawford’s just awesome but the fall camp reports have suggested him floating around at corner, nickel, and safety. In general, the defense seems poised to go very deep this year.
No need to belabor things, let’s get to the players.
Good lord is this position loaded. In 2016, Nyles Morgan led the Irish with 4 sacks. Jarron Jones’ 2 sacks was the most by a lineman, and things seemed remarkably bleak. Two seasons later, the Irish boast one of the most talented and deepest groups in the country. The rotation starts at being six deep, and that’s before considering a couple of true freshmen.
#42 Julian Okwara – Okwara unsurprisingly finished as the top player based on the collective pre-season wisdom of the nerds who vote on such things. He’s on every watch list you’d prefer your best player to be on. He’s apparently added a little more weight and was viewed as “unstoppable” at times during fall practice. I choose to take that that Julian’s more God than mortal rather than a worry sign for the play of ND’s tackles.
#53 Khalid Kareem – Were I to do one of those “Bold Predictions” articles, my most Lays with Ruffles (BOLD!) prediction would be that Kareem ends up with the better season than Okwara. Kareem finished third on the team in sacks (4.5…which would’ve LED the team in 2016), but consider this disruptive fact: Kareem had the same number of pass break ups as Alohi Gilman (5) which was one more than Drue Tranquill’s 4. I am already salivating about the 3rd and long game the team could play by lining up Okwara, Kareem, and….
#9 Daelin Hayes – While not quite the year of Tillery, Okwara, or Kareem, Hayes is still an extraordinarily talented end. Honestly, I still think his Batman announcement thing was kinda cool too.
#91 Ade Ogundeji (O-gun-day-gee) – For many teams, he would be a starter that folks would be happy about. 1.5 sacks and 3 TFL last season got lost in last year’s stat lines, but for a rotational player that was fine. He’ll finally get an opportunity to make a larger impact this campaign. Tillery was extremely disruptive on the interior last year, and there is a big void to fill from a pressure and plays perspective. Lea’s job should focus on finding different combinations of these ends to deploy in creative ways. There’s no Tillery this year, but there’s plenty to work with.
#19 Justin Ademilola – Ademilola played in just 4 games last year meaning the sophomore still retains 4 years of eligibility entering the season. Can we agree that he gets 20ish tackles, 3 sacks, and learns some neat tricks from the top 4?
#44 Jamir Jones – The converted linebacker is still best known for shaming mortal men with his pregame blazer and no shirt attire. From a rotational standpoint, it’s tough to see where he’ll find a lot of snaps except in blowouts or perhaps on special teams? There was some speculation over the summer he might even be redshirted to retain a season of eligibility as a 5th year. The ladies of ND nod approvingly.
#94 Isaiah Foskey – Foskey made a large enough impact during the summer and fall practices to gain some reps versus the first and second team players. He seems like an obvious candidate to be used sparingly to get him 4 games without losing a year of eligibility, which will probably be similar for….
#18 NaNa Ossafo-Mensah – We’re seriously on defensive ends still. I find this enjoyable. Re-read the Foskey description and get a sip of water.
No Tillery and no James Bonner. No problem. As mentioned above, there’s no obvious Tillery on the roster, but the two guys most likely to help fill his void are:
#95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa – A broken foot cost MTA most of last year. It’s unfair to compare him directly to the man he’s being asked to help replace, but given the end depth mentioned above, he does not need to be. The larger goal is to keep everyone fresh. Which means a heavy rotation with…
#57 Jayson Ademilola – If we just made each lineman responsible for sacks commensurate with the number of syllables in their last name, the team would be record-breaking.
#41 Kurt Hinish – Hinish is the direct Bonner replacement in terms of position but not style. Bonner had one task and that was take up space and blockers to let the others do their thing. This year’s team will certainly want Hinish to do some of that, but he’s a far more athletic and versatile nose and in the absence of a dominant interior presence, I anticipate them doing more things with Hinish.
#54 Jacob Lacey – Lacey is a freshman. He’s also a man. Take it away Tyler James
He’ll play, and in the next year or two, he will be a cult hero.
#55 Ja’Mion Franklin – Just shy of 6’2″ but over 300 lbs, Franklin provides the type of prototypical girth you like in a nose. Coming off a serious leg injury made the Lacey time share an easy one.
I’m not even sure how to approach these positions. There is one obvious and clear starter at Rover. Everything else seems to be very fluid. So, let’s take these in loose position groupings.
#22 Asmar Bilal
#2 Jordan Genmark Heath
#31 Jack Lamb
Bilal is the ostensible starter, in a situation where down and distance seems like it will play a very big role. At the beginning of camp, Bilal was playing Mike with Jack Lamb moving up to the starter spot. By the end, Bilal appeared to establish himself as the starter here with the Week 1 depth chart confirming as such.
Bilal’s in perhaps the toughest position on the roster. As the 5th year in a position of uncertainty, he seems like the guy many would prefer take a leadership role, but the team cannot even decide where best to play him. Reports suggest that in passing/nickel situations, we should expect to see more of Lamb as the superior cover guy.
Genmark Heath has less certainty about exactly when we might see him play, but there’s reason to assume he’ll be incorporated fairly routinely in the early rotation until the defense lands on something they are more comfortable with.
#40 Drew White
#33 Shayne Simon
#52 Bo Bauer
White gives off some not overly re-assuring Joe Schmidt vibes. The way the staff talks about White, he seems to be the guy who “gets” what they’re trying to do. If he was surrounded by Jaylon Smith or Nyles Morgan, or Drue Tranquill, I’d be fine with that. I’m less comfortable given the other uncertainties. When the 2-deep was initially released today, Shayne Simon’s name was missing. Twitter picked up on this and panicked until the information staff quickly released a new one with Simon as the back-up. Simon’s the superior athlete but has yet to separate in terms of scheme knowledge. I keep hoping that might be corrected.
#30 Jeremiah Owusu Koramoah (“Wu”) – I wanted him to be JOK, but I lost that battle. The team, coaches, and Wu have spoken. Aside from some guy named Hamilton and perhaps Keys, no one did more in the lead up to week 1 to improve his stock than Wu. By now you’ve probably heard – Wu was basically recruited to play this exact position. Injury in September last year caused the Irish to re-adjust plans. Season lead up provided glimpses of an uber athletic guy who’s competent enough in pass coverage to provide additional flexibility in games where the team faces a no huddle offense.
I am running his fan club, and y’all can’t stop me.
#13 Paul Moala
#24 Jack Kiser
Ideally, we see these guys making special teams tackles and that’s about it.
This is a bit like the linebacker group but with a lot more talent. What we know:
#5 Troy Pride – Is the man. Sure, we ALL would have loved to love Pride playing with Love while the score was 40 – Love, but we’ve been scorned. Instead, we’re left with an outstanding corner who is expected to be the primary boundary corner. One thing I’ll be interested to watch is whether he simply stays on the boundary side or whether they flip him to remain with a team’s best receiver in larger games. In the meantime, there’s this:
#20 Shaun Crawford – He will be on the field. Let me repeat that. HE WILL BE ON THE FIELD. And, really, that’s all we need. Please stay healthy, my man.
Okay. That’s what we know. The other 4 corners likely to play, in some combination, based on who’s healthy, etc….
#28 TaRiq Bracy
#3 Houston Griffith
#8 Donte Vaughn
#4 Avery Davis
It felt as if Davis fell behind the other three as practices progressed. Griffith and Vaughn both come with some lingering injury questions. But your guess is as good as mind about how the snaps wind up at the end of the day. Griffith still feels like an obvious contender to move to safety to pair with Hamilton come next year.
Two more Top 10ish roster players for 2019 along with ND’s most eligible freshman make this situation feel calm, reliable, and tested. Add in a number of snaps for Crawford back here and you have the position I feel most comfortable with on the entire roster.
#11 Alohi Gilman – If he plays how we want him to, he won’t be back for his final year of eligibility, probably. So, enjoy it folks.
#21 Jalen Elliott – A near perfect centerfielder. Elliott led the team in 2018 in interceptions and had more pass break-ups than Gilman. No, he’s not the run supporter of Gilman and isn’t asked to be. If things are going well, he’ll be the team leader in interceptions again.
#14 Kyle Hamilton – He hasn’t played a game yet. No, YOU have a custom ordered Fathead of him on YOUR wall.
#12 DJ Brown – This should probably be Derrik Allen, but it’s not.
Alright, we’re creeping towards 1800 words. Is is game day yet???
Survivor of the Davie, O'Leary, Willingham football eras. Southern. Charming and more often than not the wittiest person at his dinner table (he eats alone quite a bit).
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