The month of July brings us close to the beginning of another fall camp for Notre Dame football. With practices set to begin soon we are taking a look at each position group ahead of the workouts. We continue our series with a breakdown of the Irish defensive line.
Where We Left Off in Spring
This spring saw a lot of turnover and some shuffling around. In addition to the loss of graduating Andrew Trumbetti we saw Jay Hayes grab most of the headlines with a transfer–first to Oklahoma and then later to Georgia. Rising senior Brandon Tiassum is staying in school through December in order to graduate and transfer but was removed from the team during the winter. Earlier this year, Jonathan MacCollister transferred to UCF and is now a tight end with the Knights. Elijah Taylor wasn’t able to come back from his foot injury in 2017 and elected to transfer, while Pete Mokwuah wasn’t invited back for a 5th-year.
For a number of days in January, Jonathan Bonner was leaving the program too but reversed course and will return for his final season. Other than all of this, it was actually a quiet spring for the defensive line!
Bonner and Jerry Tillery switched positions with the former moving to nose guard and the latter to 3-tech. Additionally, linebacker Jamir Jones moved to weak-side defensive end otherwise the two-deep pretty much stayed the same all spring and continued to develop.
Number One Camp Story Line
By and large it seems Notre Dame knows what it has at defensive line going into camp absent a big surprise from one of the young players. One place for competition is on that weak-side where Daelin Hayes (544 snaps in 2017) played significantly more than Julian Okwara and has not yet exhibited the propensity to get after the quarterback like classmate.
When is pass-rushing not a concern, right? The Irish could get decent pass-rushing from other areas (Coney was particularly effective in the second half last year) it’s just not looking real great outside of either Hayes or Okwara for the defensive line’s pass-rushing role. One of these players having a big camp could really give an extra jolt to what should be a very good defense.
Anticipation Level: 6/10
The defensive line for me is all about seeing if anyone can grow from solid/good/serviceable into something better and more reliable. Jerry Tillery is already there, but if you want a bit of a pessimistic take for this unit, I’m not sure anyone else is quite there, yet. A couple of guys are knocking on the door.
My focus for camp is on the following 3 players:
1 Khalid Kareem – This isn’t much of a hot take in that I think Kareem will be in the same breath as Tillery as the best defensive linemen on the team by the early parts of the season. If that’s true he should build off his really good spring and lock down a starting spot and tons of minutes in September. If we’re not hearing about him playing at a high level I’ll be quite worried.
2 Kurt Hinish – This is the 3rd straight year of me saying Jonathan Bonner is a solid guy but really not that much an impact player. The switch for him to nose guard doesn’t really give me the warm and fuzzies so I’m really focused on how well Hinish can compete to be a starter. In general, the nose guard position doesn’t appear to be all that big or strong which is a concern.
3 Jayson Ademilola – Freshman wildcard! This time last year we were excited about the debut of Darnell Ewell and that hasn’t gone so well. Ademilola hopefully becomes that impact freshman and in his defense he should be more prepared and will have the added benefit of playing multiple positions across the line.