Elite DE prospect NaNa Osafo-Mensah says yes to Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

A complete front four has already been assembled in Notre Dame's 2019 recruiting class.

Not to be outdone by the offensive line and its three commitments, the defensive line continued its impressive recruiting stretch on Saturday. The most important piece of the front four came into place with a commitment from four-star defensive end NaNa Osafo-Mensah.

The 6-foot-4, 231-pound junior announced his pledge to the Irish following his spring game at Fort Worth (Texas) Nolan Catholic. He joins three four-star recruits on the defensive line in Notre Dame's class: nose guard Jacob Lacey, defensive tackle Hunter Spears and strongside defensive end Howard Cross III.

Osafo-Mensah committed to Notre Dame ahead of Texas, and had offers from Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Michigan and USC. He gives Notre Dame a much-needed, pass-rush threat at weakside defensive end.

"He's explosive," CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. "He has long arms, quick feet and an aggressive style of play. He's the best player in the Fort Worth area and one of the best in the whole Metroplex. He's a good kid, very motivated and seems like a Notre Dame type of kid."

247Sports slates Osafo-Mensah as the No. 5 weakside defensive in the 2019 class. As the No. 69 prospect overall regardless of position, he's the highest-ranked Irish commit via 247Sports in the 10-man class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 6 outside linebacker and No. 160 overall.

Notre Dame offered Osafo-Mensah a little more than one year ago. An unofficial visit in January and official visit in April helped convince him into a future with the Irish.

Landing Osafo-Mensah marks a significant recruiting victory for defensive line coach Mike Elston. The Irish haven't signed a four-star recruit at weakside defensive end since Julian Okwara in the 2016 class. That class also included Daelin Hayes, who has played weakside defensive end at Notre Dame but was projected as an outside linebacker by multiple recruiting services.

With seven months to go until the early signing period, Elston has already put together one of the best defensive line classes during Brian Kelly's tenure, and the Irish are continuing to pursue more talent for 2019.

Notre Dame's 2011 class, which included four-star defensive ends Aaron Lynch and Ben Councell and five-star defensive ends Stephon Tuitt and Ishaq Williams, remains the most-talented group per Rivals ratings. The 2016 class, which included the aforementioned Okwara and Hayes and four-star defensive end Khalid Kareem, also came highly touted.

"Mike Elston has proven himself to be one of the premier recruiters in the country," Lemming said. "He's one of the names that always pops up. When I talk to the kids, I always ask them about the assistant coaches that they really remember. Mike Elston's name pops up more than just about any of the assistant coaches in the Midwest."

Beating out Texas for Osafo-Mensah is no small feat. The Longhorns signed a top-five class in the 2018 recruiting cycle and have really picked up momentum under head coach Tom Herman.

The Irish have won their share of recruiting battles in Texas under Kelly, but they have rarely been with recruits the caliber of Osafo-Mensah. Of the 12 Texas products to sign with the Irish during Kelly's tenure, only four were rated as four-star recruits by Rivals: tight end Brock Wright (2017), cornerback Nick Watkins (2014) and wide receivers Torii Hunter Jr and Corey Robinson (2013).

Osafo-Mensah joins Spears (from Sachse) as four-star recruits from Texas verbally committed to Notre Dame's 2019 class.

"Texas made a major push, so it's a super big catch for Notre Dame," Lemming said. "Getting Brock Wright a couple years ago was really big. In the past, Notre Dame has settled for B-list guys in Texas. Some of them developed and most of them didn't develop because they were B-list guys.

"But Brock Wright was the premier tight end in the country, and they got him. Getting a guy like Osafo-Mensah could really say a lot."

The Irish now have 10 verbal commitments in the 2019 class, with seven coming on defense. The addition of Osafo-Mensah vaulted Notre Dame's class to No. 7 in the Rivals' team recruiting rankings and No. 8 in the 247Sports class ratings.

Four-star defensive end NaNa Osafo-Mensah, a 2019 recruit, verbally committed to Notre Dame on Saturday.

The following recruits from Texas have signed with Notre Dame during head coach Brian Kelly's tenure with the Irish. Their star rating from Rivals is listed in parentheses.

2017 – TE Brock Wright (4) and QB Avery Davis (3).

2015 – WR Jalen Guyton (3).

2014 – WR Nick Watkins (4), DE Kolin Hill (3) and DE Grant Blankenship (3).

2013 – WR Torii Hunter Jr. (4), WR Corey Robinson (4) and TE Durham Smythe (3).

2012 – S Nicky Baratti (3).

2011 – RB Cam McDaniel (3), CB Jalen Brown (3)