Notebook: Weighing Notre Dame's defensive end options in 2018 class

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Thomas Booker appeared to be Notre Dame’s best chance at landing a four-star defensive end in the 2018 class.

That was until Stanford ruined a good plan for the Irish. Booker, who made an official visit to Stanford three weeks prior, committed to the Cardinal on Sunday.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Booker was at the top of a short list of four-star defensive ends still showing serious interest in Notre Dame. Booker made an official visit to Notre Dame for the season opener against Temple.

The Irish also hosted Joseph Ossai for an official visit that day, but it will remain a challenge for Notre Dame to pull the Conroe (Texas) Oak Ridge product away from Texas and Texas A&M.

Four-star defensive end Jayson Oweh showed high interest in Notre Dame earlier in the recruiting process with visits in June and July, but his recruitment has trended away from the Irish. The 6-foot-5, 236-pound Oweh has been favoring Ohio State and Penn State with offers from Michigan and Miami coming in October.

Where does that leave Notre Dame? The Irish have at least one defensive end prospect in the class with Justin Ademilola. Though his twin brother, Jayson, has received high praise as a four-star defensive tackle, Justin Ademilola brings some pass-rush prowess.

The 6-2, 243-pound Ademilola has tallied 35 tackles, eight for a loss, and five sacks in seven games to start his senior season at Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Prep.

If the Irish are going to add another defensive end to the class, they may need to extend a few more scholarship offers at the position. South Carolina defensive end commit Kingsley Enagbare, a three-star recruit from Atlanta Hapeville Charter, reported a Notre Dame offer in early October, but there hasn’t been any other movement with defensive ends since then.

Among the prospects Notre Dame has evaluated are Devin O’Rourke of Frankfort (Ill.) Lincoln-Way East and Arak McDuffie of Louisville Trinity. The 6-6, 240-pound O’Rourke, a four-star recruit committed to Northwestern, attended a Notre Dame game last season. McDuffie, a 6-4, 240-pound, three-star recruit, was scheduled to visit Notre Dame for last weekend’s USC game.

Notre Dame needs to make decisions soon if they’re going to expand the target list at defensive end. The Irish could opt to flip a commitment like they did in the previous recruiting cycle with three-star defensive end Kofi Wardlow.

The emergence of sophomore defensive ends Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara and signs of development for fellow sophomore Adetokunbo Ogundeji have lessened Notre Dame’s immediate needs at the position. And taking projects at defensive end one year after signing Wardlow and three-star recruit Jonathan MacCollister might not make the most sense.

One option could be developing one of Notre Dame’s linebacker commits into a drop end. Daelin Hayes played linebacker most of his high school career. Could someone like Ovie Oghoufo make a similar transition? He would need to add weight to his 6-3, 209-pound frame, but he has the length and athleticism required for the position.

How Notre Dame decides to finish defensive end recruiting will be one of the more interesting story lines to follow in the final three months of the recruiting cycle.

Crim offer

Notre Dame’s big recruiting weekend for the USC game produced one safety commitment in Paul Moala. It also produced one safety offer in B.J. Crim.

The 6-0, 195-pound Crim added an Irish offer at the end of his visit Sunday.

“They like everything about me as a football player,” Crim said. “They like that I have corner skills and that I can play corner and safety. They’re going to use me mainly as a safety.”

PCrim, a three-star recruit and the No. 110 safety in the 2018 class according to 247Sports, has only one other visit scheduled — to Wake Forest. He said he hopes to have a commitment decision made by December. Crim was previously committed to UCF for nearly four months.

Murray impressed

Four-star offensive guard Chris Murray gave his Notre Dame official visit a rave review.

“Overall, me and my mom had a great trip,” Murray said. “That game kind of blew me away. I didn’t know what to expect. The whole atmosphere and the crowd, I got absorbed into it too. Notre Dame is a special place.”

The 6-3, 290-pound Murray made the trip for the USC game alongside two teammates from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei: five-star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and four-star linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu.

Murray was able to see Equanimeous St. Brown, Amon-Ra’s older brother, catch a touchdown and the Irish offensive line pave the way for 377 rushing yards.

“Wow. Seeing how dominant they are, that’s just crazy,” Murray said of the offensive line. “That left side was something else. It was a great thing to see.”


Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Will the Irish add a second defensive end in the 2018 class to join Justin Ademilola? (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)