Rochell on the Rise

Sophomore defensive end Isaac Rochell was promoted to a starting role due to the absence of a suspended senior. He's since cemented the role as his, and considering his improvement over each of the last three contests, is unlikely to relinquish it in the foreseeable future.

Isaac Rochell was a bye week and 12 days removed from what appeared to be the best individual performance of his young career.

Against state-rival Purdue in Indianapolis, Rochell registered six tackles including a half-sack while adding a pass defended at the line of scrimmage in a 30-14 Irish victory. According to the film review, the six-foot-four, 287-pounder twice applied pressure on quarterback Danny Etling to force incomplete passes.

Asked if he believed the effort to be his best to date, Rochell deferred instead to a more demanding grader of post-game film.

"For every college athlete, when you think you play well, you come in and get blasted by film," he said of a game review with position coach Mike Elston. "So I focus on the next opponent and try to get better. I think I played a decent game but there's still so much that needs to be worked."

Rochell apparently put in that work in the days that followed.

His official numbers in Notre Dame's subsequent contest, a 31-15 victory over Syracuse, show two tackles including one for lost yardage, plus a pair of quarterback pressures.

Fortunately for his Monday film session, much more was revealed. To be exact, a name search for Rochell in our defensive film notes detailing every play brings up "Rochell" on nine occasions -- eight of them positive.

He crashed down to help negate a zone-read carry in the backfield. He broke through as the nose guard in a 3-man Dime package front to apply third-down pressure. He helped Sheldon Day chase down a play for no gain. He helped collapse the Syracuse pocket, forcing quarterback Terrel Hunt to throw early, and errant. He held the point on a stretch run to his side, allowing teammates Joe Schmidt and Max Redfield to make the stop.

And more of the same.

Over the last three contests (Rochell fared well against Michigan, officially with four stops, a hurry, and a fumble recovery), the supposed substitute for suspended senior Ishaq Williams began his evolution from relative rookie to front-line player. It was something Elston projected for the sophomore as training camp ended.

“I am excited about Isaac Rochell’s development," Elston said in August. "He is playing more confident. He is playing more physical. He is playing with better pad level. We are still continuing to work on the pass rush, which is going to be a critical place for him to grow in. But he is playing faster and more aggressive which in this scheme is needed.”

"You'll see him play all over the place. You'll see him play every position. He'll play all over."

Like the more experienced Day, Rochell has indeed lined up at multiple positions for a shifting Irish front. He was prepared for it, in fact, expecting a heavy work load has likely aided his evolution.

"For sure. You go into a game with the same level of preparation, so it wasn't in the forefront of my mind," he said of more snaps against Purdue than in previous wins over Rice and Michigan. "But it's a lot more fun playing a lot of plays, so I enjoyed it."

Those extra snaps and Notre Dame's incessant run of prime time games can take a toll on a scrimmage battler. Rochell though has learned to use his downtime to his advantage.

"I would much rather play an early game because you're done early," he said of Notre Dame's third straight prime time kickoff (with four more likely on the horizon). "They do a good job of giving us time off on Sunday if we play a night game, so it all works out.

"We get treatment at 12 and have rest of the (Sunday) off. A lot is recuperating and watching film on your own."

That film review, like Rochell, continues to get better. Top Stories