Notre Dame football notebook: Why Notre Dame's three star DL returned for 2022 season

Justin Frommer
ND Insider
Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey (7) Jayson Ademilola (57) and Justin Ademilola (9) celebrate Ademilola's sack during the Notre Dame vs. Stanford NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif.

SOUTH BEND —  Notre Dame's Isaiah Foskey and twins Justin Ademilola and Jayson Ademilola all went through their own offseason process before deciding to come back for the 2022 football season. 

Foskey, who recorded the third-most single-season sacks in program history last year, said he mainly spoke with his dad, his trainer, Anthony Truggs. He also went through the NFL Draft projection process, receiving a second-to-third round grade. 

"The ultimate goal was to go to the NFL, but I want to be a first-round pick, first one off of the board," Foskey said Friday. "That has always been my goal. They just said they want to see more consistency throughout every play, from play-to-play within every game."

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Justin Ademilola, who ranked second last season with five sacks, made up his mind the week before Notre Dame's season finale at Stanford.

"I knew what the opportunity coming back would bring," he said. "It was almost like a no-brainer for me that I was going to come back." 

Notre Dame’s Justin Ademilola (9) and Jayson Ademilola (57) stand next to each other as they prepare to line up on defense during the Notre Dame vs. Purdue NCAA football game Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Jayson Ademilola, who ranked fifth on Notre Dame with 49 tackles, feels there is more he can show NFL evaluators with another season, and that he can raise his game to All-American status. 

"It didn't really align with my personal goals, where I think my game is at and where it compares to other players in the country," he said of entering the NFL Draft. 

The trio hopes their return will be beneficial to both their own football futures as well as Notre Dame's. The Irish are expected to have one of the most experienced defensive line groups in the country next season as Foskey and the Ademilola brothers bring back 26 combined sacks over their collegiate careers. 

"Our D-line is going to be nasty," Foskey boasted. "We have so many people returning from the (defensive)-line and the defense in general. It is going to be a dominant defense."

The Irish have a two-headed edge presence with Foskey and Justin Ademilola working in tandem at the Viper position, while Jayson can help lock down the inside at defensive tackle.

That will help offset the losses of defensive end Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and nose tackle Kurt Hinish.

"Being able to share the same field on third down is beneficial," Justin Ademilola explained, "because it is hard to stop me, Foskey and my brother when we are on the field at the same time."

Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey (7) takes down Purdue's Jack Plummer (13) during the Notre Dame vs. Purdue NCAA football game Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Their veteran presence will be a boost to reported new defensive line coach Al Washington, who spent the past three seasons as Ohio State's linebackers coach. 

"Having the opportunity to play alongside my brother, alongside Foskey for one more year, it is going to awesome," Justin Ademilola said. "Hands down the best defensive line in the country and we are going to bring it day-in and day-out."

Patterson, Lugg return to help form experienced O-line

It wasn't until after Notre Dame's win at Stanford, did Jarrett Patterson know he would be coming back for his fifth season. 

After getting NFL feedback and talking to former Notre Dame offensive lineman — such as Dallas Cowboys All-Pro Nick Martin — Patterson, a graduate senior, concluded there were things he could refine during another college season. 

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"For me, coming back wasn't because of the (draft) grade," he said. "It was me personally. I want to be ready at the next level, day one, to be a starter."

Notre Dame’s Jarrett Patterson (55) during Notre Dame’s 32-29 win over Virginia Tech in an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Blacksburg, Va.

Josh Lugg felt the same, especially after playing through a knee injury most of the 2021 season. 

With both returning in 2022, Notre Dame's offensive line has experience, depth and a new OL coach who has a history of producing NFL talent. 

The Irish return four starters from last year's group, including: tackles Joe Alt, who was voted to the Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-American team, Sophomore Blake Fisher, who stepped into Lugg's role at right tackle against Oklahoma State after missing all season with an injury suffered in the season opener, Patterson, a four-year starter at center and Andrew Kristofic at left guard. 

Notre Dame’s Josh Lugg (75) during the Notre Dame-USC NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Tosh Baker and Michael Carmody, who both got starts at left tackle this past season will be back, too. 

"I think we've all become really close because of it," Lugg said of the group's experience. "Now a lot of us have played with each other on the line. And there's a lot of guys that understand that they can play at a high level."

Lugg, who started all 12 regular season games last year before missing the Fiesta Bowl, figures to factor into that group in some capacity. What it is, we don't know yet, and Lugg won't reveal any secrets other than he will do what is necessary to get on the field. 

"I think I'm a versatile player," he said. " I'm not gonna like sit back and be like, 'I'm the right tackle, I'm the right tackle.' It's, 'Okay, where do you need me? Let's go dominate that position."

For Patterson, that is what he has done now for four seasons. He has started 34 games over the past three years and hasn't allowed a sack in 1,306 career pass-blocking snaps. 

After getting feedback about his pro football opportunities, Patterson wanted to come back to work on consistency, finishing out blocks and being "dominant all the time."

Notre Dame has — reportedly — brought in the perfect position coach to assist with that in Harry Hiestand, who is making his second pit stop in South Bend as the Irish offensive line coach (2012-17). 

Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand identified another offensive line target. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)

His job will be to find the right combination amongst Notre Dame's lineman to craft a dominant group, as well as help Patterson and Lugg take one final step in their college careers. 

"To learn all these new philosophy, techniques and ideas (then) take from your previous coach and kind of combine that," Patterson said, "you'll make yourself into a better player."

Bauer ready to accept bigger role

Bo Bauer has played in every Notre Dame football game since he arrived  in 2018. Of the 51 games he's seen action in, only one has been in a starting role. For most of his career Bauer, a graduate senior, has played behind linebacker Drew White, who just graduated.

With the chance at a more expanded role in 2022, it was a no-brainer for Bauer to return for his fifth year. 

"Drew has been a great role model to me," Bauer said. "Great best friend. We've been together through so much over the years. But the opportunity of finally stepping out, it's really a special thing. ... I'm just excited to carry on that legacy." 

Nov 13, 2021; Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Bo Bauer (52) celebrates after sacking Virginia Cavaliers quarterback Jay Woolfolk (16) during the third quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Bauer tallied 45 tackles over 13 games in 2021, including 1.5 sacks and his first career interception in a win over USC.

For his career, the former four-star recruit has racked up 109 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks over in four seasons.

Following Notre Dame's 37-35 loss to Oklahoma State in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, Bauer decided staying at Notre Dame was his best bet. 

"The thought of coming back and redeeming ourselves and playing for Notre Dame again to finish off better is definitely a big motivation for me," he said. "... I love it here and I haven't seen anything that I really wanted to change."

As an older player, Bauer could be tasked with leading a position group JD Bertrand, Jack Kiser and Marist Liufau, who missed last year with an injury.

"The sky's the limit," Bauer said. "We have a lot of good people coming back with a super deep linebacker room. "We've been so veteran in that room for such a long time that it's kind of exciting to have some new linebackers come in and kind of have a twist."