Notre Dame aiming to enrich DE position for 2019 class

Staff reports
ND Insider

Notre Dame enriched its defensive end rotation just once over the past four years.

Daelin Hayes, Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara — all 2016 signees — mark Notre Dame’s only three defensive ends rated above three stars since the 2015 class.

Mike Elston and Co. are aiming to absolve any void on the edge with this 2019 class. The Irish already earned pledges from four stars NaNa Osafo-Mensah and Howard Cross III. Elston also garnered commits from four-star defensive tackles Hunter Spears and Jacob Lacey.

With 18 commits and just a handful of spots remaining, the Irish intend on snagging one or two more defensive ends. Four-star Joshua Pakola, Notre Dame’s top remaining target at the position, plans to make his official visit for the Vanderbilt game Saturday.

Rivals rated Pakola, a Mountain View (Calif.) St. Francis product, as the No. 7 strongside defensive end and No. 116 overall player. 247Sports lists him as a weakside defensive end and rates him No. 19 at the position and No. 276 overall.

At 6-3, 267 pounds, Pakola would fit as Notre Dame’s big end.

“Or he could be moved inside,” said Tom Lemming, a CBS Sports recruiting analyst. “No doubt. He’s got that kind of frame.”

For comparison, Notre Dame lists its big end, Kareem, at 6-4, 265.

“He’s got a build that could translate to the NFL in four years,” Lemming said. “He’s got quick hands, quick feet. He’s not so much fast, but he’s got quick feet, which is good for a defensive lineman. He’s also a guy who wins leverage battles, but he’s a tough, aggressive kid.”

Pakola announced his top seven in June: Notre Dame, USC, UCLA, Stanford, Georgia, Oregon and Washington. This weekend will be his first time on Notre Dame’s campus.

“Toughness, instincts, he’s got an aggressive style,” said Lemming of Pakola’s strengths. “When you watch him — he’s a nice kid off the field — but you see him on the field, he’s tough and aggressive. He was born to play football. He’s one of those guys that can make plays.”

ND Insider reported Pakola aspires to play collegiate baseball as well. He batted .370 as a first and third baseman last season.

“If it’s a no, then I can’t go there,” said Pakola in July.

This weekend’s official visit likely means the Irish welcomed the idea of Pakola as a two-sport athlete. They already made it work for sophomore tight end Cole Kmet, who pitched in 26 games for Notre Dame last season.

Bralen Trice update

Sandra Day O’Connor (Ariz.) High’s Bralen Trice, another 2019 defensive end, listed Notre Dame in his top three last Saturday.

Trice, a three-star target, made his official visit to Notre Dame for the Michigan game. At 6-4, 225, Trice brings more speed than Pakola but would likely never develop into a defensive tackle or drop end.

He’s listed as the No. 23 weakside defensive end on Rivals. 247Sports rates Trice No. 38 at his position and No. 489 overall.

Even when considering Notre Dame’s other needs — running back, offensive tackle, receiver and cornerback — it wouldn’t hurt adding both Trice and Pakola.

“Trice is a down-the-line guy who could be good, but (Pakola) is already good,” Lemming said. “Trice has got the length, the quick feet and the leverage that you would like to see. Trice is definitely a defensive end. But Joshua can play wherever he wants on the defensive line.”

Trice said he will announce his commitment on Oct. 6. He intends on taking official visits to the other schools he’s considering, Oregon and Washington, on Sept. 22 and Sept. 29, respectively.

Walter Rouse, a three-star offensive tackle from Sidwell Friends (D.C.), will decide between Notre Dame and Stanford on Friday evening.

Hurricane Florence

A handful of Irish recruits could be affected by Hurricane Florence, a Category 2 storm with winds surging over 100 mph. The storm already has postponed a number of college games.

Charlotte (N.C) Providence Day’s Osita Ekwonu, a 2019 four-star linebacker, might witness catastrophic flooding. According to CNN, the tropical cyclone could unleash 10 trillion gallons of rainfall in North Carolina.

Cam Hart’s first game of the season for Good Counsel (Md.) was canceled because of inclement weather. The three-star receiver also saw his game last week postponed.

Hurricane Florence could impact the following Notre Dame commits: South Warren (Ky.) High’s Jacob Lacey, Episcopal (Va.) High’s Litchfield Ajavon, Marist (Ga.) High’s Kyle Hamilton, Lovett (Ga.) High’s K.J. Wallace and Manchester (Va.) High’s Brendon Clark, Ekwonu and Hart.

Four-star defensive end Joshua Pakola wants to play football and baseball in college.