Big Board: Defensive End

A critical position for Notre Dame recruiting in 2016 is defensive end. Inside is a breakdown of the top prospects on the board at the position and a look at where Notre Dame stands on their lists.

As we break down Notre Dame’s recruiting board position-by-position in the weeks leading up to junior day (March 21), it seems pertinent to start with the biggest need for the Irish in the 2016 class. It’s critical Notre Dame secure quality talent at defensive line, notably edge pass-rushers, in this class. 

Competing for the starting spots at defensive end in 2015 will be Ishaq Williams (pending his return), Isaac Rochell (could see a more permanent home inside), Andrew Trumbetti and Romeo Okwara.

Outside the above-mentioned realistic contenders for the starting spot are Kolin Hill, Jhonny Williams, Grant Blankenship, and Bo Wallace (and perhaps Jay Hayes).

Plenty of potential in that group of competitors, but questions abound for Brian VanGorder and Keith Gilmore to solve as spring ball approaches.

Turning the page to 2016, as it stands now, Notre Dame will look will ink 17-19 players. Notre Dame would like for at least two of those spots to be filled by pass-rushing defensive ends.


A four-star from Gardena (Calif.) Serra, Betiku was offered by Notre Dame in December, and he has plans to visit the Irish at some point. Arizona State, Florida State, Miami, USC and Washington are also on his list. Having only played one year of football after making the move to the States from Nigeria, Betiku strongly values Notre Dame’s academic reputation.

A three-star from Camden (N.J.) High, Johnson will visit Notre Dame for junior day. His interest in the Irish could see a sizeable increase following his first trip to campus.

A four-star from Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison, Kareem will visit Notre Dame for junior day. Notre Dame’s biggest competition here will likely be Michigan and Michigan State. A former Spartans commit, an imminent decision does not seem likely for Kareem.

A four-star from Darien (Ill.) Hinsdale, King tops Notre Dame’s list of 2016 targets regardless of position. King will visit Notre Dame for junior day. Michigan and Ohio State are also big-time contenders.

A four-star from Riverdale (Ga.) High, Okonya is one that VanGorder would love to land. He’s highly considering Duke, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee. Notre Dame still has work to do be included in his list of top schools.

A four-star from Charlotte (N.C.), Okwara is the younger brother of Irish defensive lineman Romeo Okwara. Julian will potentially visit Notre Dame for junior day. It’s not a given that he’ll follow in his brother’s footsteps to Notre Dame, and the Irish will face stiff competition from programs in the south.

A four-star from Fort Wayne (Ind.) Wayne, Robertson has a top three of Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State. The Buckeyes lead, but Notre Dame has potential to close that gap this spring.

Other defensive end prospects with offers: Nicholas Bosa of Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, Patrick Bethel of Vero Beach (Fla.) High, Justin Madubuike of McKinney (Texas) North, Rahshaun Smith of Bradenton (Fla.) IMG, Amani Bledsoe of Lawrence (Kansas) High, Charles Wiley of Stockbridge (Ga.) High Top Stories