On National Signing Day, we posted an overview of the 2019 Notre Dame recruiting class with recruit grades and some thoughts on the class. Then we went into more detail on the offensive skill position guys, because you know they’d be primadonnas if we didn’t do them first. Yesterday we looked at the guys who clear the road for them. Today we’re checking out the other manliest men on the team, the defensive linemen.
As a reminder, here’s our standard grading scale for this exercise:
95-100: Truly elite prospect with All-American potential
90-94: Multi-year starter with All-conference level potential
85-89: Eventual starter with chance to play as underclassman
80-84: Raw prospect with decent potential but a couple years away from impact
75-79: Likely a backup
70-74: Reach by the coaching staff
|247C Score||18S Grade||Player||City/State||Ht/Wt||Pos||Stars|
|.9304||89||Jacob Lacey||Bowling Green, KY||6-2/285||DT||*||*||*||*||*|
|.9164||90||Isaiah Foskey||Concord, CA||6-4/233||WDE||*||*||*||*||*|
|.9014||91||NaNa Osafo-Mensah||Fort Worth, TX||6-3/224||WDE||*||*||*||*||*|
|.8964||80||Hunter Spears||Sachse, TX||6-4/280||DT||*||*||*||*||*|
|.8958||81||Howard Cross||Montvale, NJ||6-2/265||SDE||*||*||*||*||*|
DT Jacob Lacey
18S Average: 89.0
Lacey was the first 2019 domino to fall – he committed a year and a half ago! – and I think that makes people forget how good he is. His technique is extremely advanced, which coupled with early enrollment will give him a chance to push for a rotation spot in the fall. I’m a little iffy on how well his listed 6’2″ size will transfer to NT, which pushes this grade down a bit for me. But Brent Venables and Don Brown wanted him, so what do I know?
A stout player that combines really good size with a quickness off the line. Pairs that well with a physicality and a toughness to collapse the pocket. An underrated athlete. Reminds me a little bit of Kurt Hinish from a couple years ago. I can see him being a starter-level player in 2020.
Lacey is a big kid with good strength and speed coming in as an early-enrollee. He has great athleticism with multi-sport experience and should be able to develop into a capable interior pass-rusher and run defender. I think he has the chance to play similar snaps as Jayson Ademilola as a freshman.
Lacey moves REALLY well for a guy of his size. Sneaky athleticism that you wouldn’t expect just by looking at him. High motor type of guy who just doesn’t stop getting after the ball carrier.
DE Isaiah Foskey
18S Average: 89.5
[Insert gif of Homer drooling] I love NaNa, and I love Kareem and both Okwaras, but Foskey is probably the most athletic DE we’ve signed since Aaron Lynch. Maybe you’d have to go back to Victor Abiamiri before that. He played for one of the top prep programs in the country in De La Salle and still stood out physically. He played a lot of offense in high school, so he’s not as far along as Lynch or Abiamiri were, but man, give him just a little bit of time to focus and I think he’ll start wrecking people.
An intriguing and super long player on defense. His length should be a huge asset as he gets older but I see him struggling a little bit early on to maintain his pad level and stay low. The ceiling is there to be the lead pass rusher on the team in the future. If he adjusts well, adds some weight, and refines his game a bit he’ll be a good one.
A great late get to round out this class. I think Foskey is a little more of a quick-twitch athlete than Nana, which is especially noticeable in his offensive film. With Okwara and Co. returning next year, I think Foskey should be able to safely redshirt, but he should certainly be expected to contribute in 2020.
There were a lot of schools that wanted Isaiah Foskey as a tight end, but Notre Dame recruited him to play drop end. He’s a little more raw as a defensive player, but his elite athleticism affords him a ceiling that’s probably even higher than NaNa’s. I could see his career trajectory working out similar to Julian Okwara.
DE NaNa Osafo-Mensah
18S Average: 91.3
His rankings slipped a bit when he looked good, not great, at the Opening and his all-star game, but the reality is he was never going to blow anyone away in those settings. He lacks the polish of a lot of those elite guys, but what he doesn’t lack at all is athleticism, ferocity, and coachability. The consensus seems to be that he’ll eventually move to SDE based on his frame, and there are worse things than having an athletic, fierce, hardworking SDE.
A great prospect who might be getting more hype if he committed to the Irish much later in the process. People forget how good he’s going to be. Quick, physical, and long. NaNa looks like the type of edge rushers that A&M has churned out in recent years. I think he could have the biggest impact on this class by the time he leaves campus.
Nana was a huge get at an ever-important position early in the cycle. Although he’s fallen in rankings recently, he should come in with big expectations. Nana has good length and room to add weight. Although he’s listed as a WDE, I’d expect him to look and play more like Khalid Kareem, and I think that a Kareem-caliber end is probably the ceiling that ND fans should hope for.
This time last year, most had NaNa as THE must-get prospect of the 2019 class. There has been much hand-wringing over Notre Dame’s struggles to land blue-chip defensive ends over the past few years. While NaNa may no longer be that Top 100 recruit he was twelve months ago, he remains a very high-ceiling prospect with excellent length and plus-athleticism.
DT Hunter Spears
18S Average: 79.8
I like Spears as a potential anchor DT, but his second major knee injury in as many years is a major red flag. If he had a clean health record I’d probably give him an 86-88 grade and compare him to MTA. If he can put all that behind him I think he has the potential to at least be a solid rotation player, but I doubt we’ll have any clarity on that until at least 2020.
A big strong kid from Texas. Once believed to be a strong-side defensive end but doesn’t appear to have the speed to stay on the edge. Could develop into a quality interior player. Pretty concerned about his two knee injuries in high school paired with a body that reminds me a lot of a clunky offensive guard. Coming in while rehabing, I just don’t know what kind of future he’ll carve out at Notre Dame.
At an interior position where it’s extra important to develop lower body strength and explosiveness, it’s disappointing that Spears has had two major injuries before even getting to college and likely won’t be able to train 100% for some time still. Under the assumption that he can eventually perform healthily, I think he can be expected to be a rotation player and play snaps similar to sophomore-version Kurt Hinish.
I think we would all be a lot more excited about Spears’ potential future at Notre Dame if it weren’t for the two major knee injuries. Once considered among the elite defensive line prospects in the country, his ability to stay healthy and develop is now a huge question mark. Uncertainty definitely plays a factor in the lower grading.
DT Howard Cross
18S Average: 80.8
Cross’s frame is a concern for everyone who evaluates him, but on the upside, he plays bigger than his size and his father – the NFL legend of the same name – grew three inches in college. Frame fears aside, the Irish staff is convinced that they stole a big-time player away from other programs. His first step is fantastic, he’s extremely active and violent with his hands, and his motor is elite. I’m on the fence; he might get swallowed up by college guards, but if he doesn’t, I think he has the tools to be a very disruptive player.
My biggest fear is that Cross is too much of a tweener. Although, most believe he’ll put on good weight and play on the interior. I can see that happening. He has pretty good quickness and has nice burst off the line. He could be a decent 3-tech down the line. I worry about his strength as he’s stood up a lot in high school.
The first thing that gets brought up with Cross is his slightly awkward position problem. With that being said, it’s worth noting that Cross won the NJ Gatorade Player of the Year and is not a slouch. He moves pretty darn well overall for his weight, gets off the line quick, and really has nice strength. My ND-comparison would be Isaac Rochell and I think he can become close to that type of player in a couple years.
I’m hoping Cross is a late bloomer and will grow a couple inches over the few years. Because at this point his body is probably better suited to the interior, but his skillset is probably better suited for the big end position. He’s also quick off the line and he has a high motor. Plus he’s got NFL bloodlines. If I had to pick one guy from this class who might outplay his 18 Stripes grades, ihe would be under heavy consideration.