LB Ovie Oghoufo sticking by Notre Dame commitment through defensive struggles

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Receiving messages from college coaches has become part of the routine for Ovie Oghoufo.

Since Sept. 1, when the NCAA allows schools to initiate contact with junior football recruits like Oghoufo, he’s seen a steady stream of texts and direct messages.

“I hear a lot from Boston College, who has offered me,” Oghoufo said. “I hear a lot from Navy, Virginia, USC.”

But a certain school from his home state has a tendency to light up his phone.

“Michigan State definitely sends me a lot of stuff,” Oghoufo said. “They let me have it after the game.”

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound linebacker at Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison attended Saturday’s night’s Notre Dame-Michigan State game. He watched the Irish lose 36-28 at his first game experience in Notre Dame Stadium.

The relationships at Michigan State for Oghoufo include recruiting coordinator Brad Salem, head coach Mark Dantonio and director of college advancement and performance Curtis Blackwell. Oghoufo knows Blackwell through the Sound Mind, Sound Body Football Academy, a Detroit-based football camp that was once co-directed by Blackwell.

Oghoufo doesn’t anticipate ignoring their messages any time soon.

“If they talk to me, I’ll talk back,” he said. “I’m still committed, so it really doesn’t matter to be honest. I just keep the conversation.”

The Spartans have yet to suggest Oghoufo make a visit for a home game this season, but he said they’ve made their interest clear.

“They’re pushing for me,” Oghoufo said.

What Oghoufo didn’t see a lot of Saturday night was a push from Notre Dame’s defense. Poor play on that side of the ball resulted in a 36-7 deficit in the third quarter. Oghoufo, who committed to the Irish in July, said he’s been surprised by the struggles of Notre Dame’s defense in losses to Texas and Michigan State.

“It’s a work in progress. There’s definitely some stuff they still have to work on with the defense, but I think they’ll get it turned around,” Oghoufo said.

His commitment to the Irish hasn’t blinded him from the issues at hand. Still, he remains optimistic and ready to embrace his role when he enrolls at Notre Dame in 2018.

“The pass defense, the secondary, is definitely what stands out the most,” Oghoufo said of the improvements the Irish need to make. “A lot of deep balls have been thrown throughout the season so far. We have to get more pressure on the D-line, because there hasn’t been a sack this year. And there’s a lot of missed tackles that I’ve seen.”

Oghoufo, who attends the same high school that produced freshman defensive end Khalid Kareem, met fellow 2018 commits Markese Stepp and Phil Jurkovec for the first time on Saturday. The slow start to Notre Dame’s season hasn’t prompted any questioning of their commitments.

“I don’t really concern myself with it,” Oghoufo said. “We talk about how the defense has been off and on. We’re still with the program. We can’t wait to get there.”

Oghoufo’s biggest takeaways from Saturday’s game included the atmosphere and fan support. Plenty of changes can happen to the Irish defense by the time he arrives as a freshman, but the Notre Dame fan base will likely remain the same.

“The fans are very supportive,” Oghoufo said. “It did not look like anybody left and it was 36-7. That shows how loyal the fans are to the team and loyal to the program. When they came back, the fans were still there.”

The messages from college coaches will continue to come Oghoufo’s way, but he’s still standing with the Irish.

Home. Sweet. Home. ☘️

— THE KING. (@OVO17_) September 20, 2016


Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame linebacker commit Ovie Oghoufo, a 2018 recruit, said new Irish linebackers coach Clark Lea visited his school on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Rivals)