Recruiting Reset: Pass rush still a priority for Notre Dame at defensive end

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame needed every last day of the 2017 recruiting cycle to add a second defensive end to the class.

The Irish may need just as much time for the 2018 class as well.

Notre Dame started strong with defensive end recruiting when Justin Ademilola committed to the Irish alongside his twin brother, Jayson, in June of 2016. More than a year later, Justin is still waiting to be joined by another defensive end in the class.

After signing two projects — three-star recruits Jonathon MacCollister and Kofi Wardlow — in February, the opportunity to find early-impact defensive ends remained an intriguing possibility for 2018.

Could Justin Ademilola fill that role? He’s a three-star recruit himself. The Irish are still in the running for a few talented defensive ends, but they may need to expand the target list in the coming months.

Commitment

• Justin Ademilola, 6-2, 243; Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Prep: Justin Ademilola has become the forgotten twin. As the accolades continue to come to his brother, Justin has become overshadowed in the past several months.

Of course, that’s not how Notre Dame sees Justin. He’s a versatile defensive end with pass rush skills. That will always be valued in South Bend.

As Jayson, a defensive tackle, has climbed the rankings into the top 100 on 247Sports and Scout, Justin has stayed as a three-star recruit. 247Sports slates Justin as the No. 31 weakside defensive end in the 2018 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 34 strongside defensive end.

Why such a big gap? The two aren’t that much different in terms of explosiveness and strength. But Jayson’s size allows him to use those skills on the interior of the defensive line where they’re rarer.

The national list of defensive ends with Justin’s skill set is much longer. The list of defensive ends on Notre Dame’s roster with that skill set isn’t.

Most programs offered both Ademilola twins. Meaning they could have easily decided to pursue offers from Alabama, Clemson or Penn State. But they’ve stuck with the Irish and have been encouraged by the coaching staff changes with defensive coordinator Mike Elko and defensive line coach Mike Elston.

Remaining targets

• Thomas Booker, 6-4, 250; Baltimore Gilman: Notre Dame’s best chance at adding another defensive end to the class may be with Booker. The academically focused athlete will likely end up at Stanford or Notre Dame even though his offer list includes Ohio State, Florida State, Georgia and more.

The Irish appeared to be sitting in the pole position for Booker when he visited for a spring practice in March. Then Stanford extended an offer to Booker in June. The previous summer, Booker spent the summer at Stanford taking classes.

The tug-of-war over Booker could last for quite some time. Notre Dame will try to pull Booker its direction when he returns for the Temple game this weekend.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 15 DT. | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 15 SDE.                     

• Jayson Oweh, 6-5, 236; Blairstown (N.J.) Blair Academy: Notre Dame may have caught a break when Oweh chose to push back a commitment decision until the Under Armour All-America Game in January. The four-star recruit had planned on ending his recruitment following visits to Notre Dame, Penn State and Ohio State in July. Now each school will have more time to belabor the recruiting pitch.

If Oweh did decide in July, it didn’t seem likely that Notre Dame would be on the winning end. While Notre Dame’s need for a defensive end like Oweh should still exist in January, it will be interesting to see if both Penn State and Ohio State will also have patience in his recruitment.

The Ademilola twins will certainly try to help Notre Dame’s cause with Oweh. Jayson Ademilola recently found out they share the same barber in New Jersey. Any angle is worth pursuing for a defensive end with Oweh’s natural physical abilities.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 8 SDE. | Rivals: Four stars, No. 9 SDE.

• Joseph Ossai, 6-4, 217; Conroe (Texas) Oak Ridge: Notre Dame showed up as a surprise third team on Ossai’s top three in July. He put the Irish next to Texas A&M and Texas. Notre Dame may have a slim shot at pulling Ossai out of the Lone Star State, but it’s worth pursuing.

Ossai has expressed an interest in making an official visit to Notre Dame for the season opener against Temple. With Hurricane Harvey making its way through the Houston area this weekend, any travel plans could be unsettled.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 8 WDE. | Rivals: Three stars, No. 20 WDE.

Missed targets

• Tyreke Smith, 6-3, 260; Cleveland Heights (Ohio) High: Notre Dame put itself in position to contend for Smith with a visit in September and an offer in November. The four-star recruit’s profile continued to climb, and he never made a return trip to South Bend. Smith ending up anywhere other than Ohio State would be a surprise at this point.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 5 SDE. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 5 WDE.

• Andrew Chatfield, 6-2, 221; Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage: After an offer from Florida in July, Chatfield dropped his commitment from Ohio State. He remains undecided, but the Gators seem to be frontrunners. Notre Dame hosted Chatfield on a visit in April.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 16 WDE. | Rivals: Four stars, No. 14 OLB.

• Azeez Ojulari, 6-4, 224; Marietta (Ga.) High: Ojulari showed plenty of love to Notre Dame’s recruiting graphics on Twitter. That love wasn’t reciprocated with any meaningful actions. He never visited the Irish before committing to Georgia earlier this month.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 3 WDE. | Rivals: Four stars, No. 8 WDE.

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame continues to look for another defensive end to pair with Justin Ademilola in the 2018 recruiting class. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

In the coming days, the ND Insider Recruiting Reset series will take a position-by-position look at Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts in the 2018 class. This is the seventh story of the series.

Quarterback: Early work paying off at QB

Running backs: Irish packing a powerful punch

Wide receivers: With size in hand, ND left looking for speed

Tight ends: Irish not settling for less

Offensive line: ND still looking for star power

Defensive tackle: Irish quickly turning DT into a strength