Big Board: Defensive Line

Notre Dame’s biggest need position in the Class of 2016 remains defensive end, where the program continues to hunt for new targets. The Big Board breaks down where the Irish stand with the Irish Invasion barely a week away.

With two top Midwest pass rushers off the board to Michigan State, Notre Dame needs a recruiting change of direction along the defensive line. It appears the Irish could be primed for that course correction heading toward the Irish Invasion with some new prospects on the board.

Current Outlook

Heading into fall camp, here’s a look at how the depth chart will likely stack up:

Strong-side End: Isaac Rochell, Grant Blankenship, Jonathan Bonner
Nose Tackle: Jarron Jones, Jerry Tillery, Daniel Cage, Pete Mokwuah
Defensive Tackle: Sheldon Day, Jay Hayes, Jacob Matuska
Weak-side End: Romeo Okwara, Andrew Trumbetti, Doug Randolph

Note: Ishaq Williams is back in school following his year-long suspension. While it’s not clear if he’ll be eligible per NCAA standards, the fifth-year senior would slot at strong-side end behind Rochell.

Notre Dame will lose Okwara, Day and Williams after this season. Jones could make an early leap into the NFL draft, assuming he fully rebounds from the season-ending foot injury suffered last November that required surgery. Brian Kelly said Jones had returned to full cardio work this summer.

The Irish need their sophomores – Blankenship, Cage, Hayes, Hill and Trumbetti – to take a big step forward this season for the unit to have a chance a year from now. Getting something from Matuska and Randolph in the junior class would also be a boost.

Freshmen interior defensive linemen Micah Dew-Treadway, Elijah Taylor and Brandon Tiassum should get receive red-shirts this season. Tillery will be live following a strong spring practice.

What’s Next

Notre Dame will ideally sign three to four defensive linemen this cycle. The emphasis is on pass-rushers, with three the target number for the edge positions.

Notre Dame won’t have a true freshman on its roster competing at defensive end after it parted ways with Bo Wallace this spring. That means finding a defensive end with instant impact ability is crucial.

Notre Dame received a commitment from four-star defensive end Julian Okwara this spring. Okwara’s pledge gives Notre Dame a solid start, although it’s unlikely he’ll contribute heavily as a freshman from a physical standpoint.

Notre Dame could also add a pure defensive tackle or nose tackle if it’s an elite prospect, or a strong-side defensive end that could slide into “3-technique” in pass-rushing situations.

Here’s a look at the updated Master List at defensive line.

Defensive Line
Quayson Alexander
6-3, 215
Wayne, N.J.
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Booker Top Offers: Nebraska, Va. Tech, Michigan, Miami, ASU
Outlook: Everyone is chasing Nebraska, where Alexader had planned to commit in May. He backed off that decision with new interest coming his way.
Patrick Bethel
6-4, 245
Vero Beach, Fla.
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Denson Top Offers: FSU, Alabama, Ohio St., Georgia, Florida, Clemson
Outlook: Notre Dame’s pitch of the “40-year decision” has stuck with Bethel, which means the Irish have a shot at getting a visit.
Oluwole Betiku
6-3, 240
Gardena, Calif.
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Denbrock Top Offers: Florida, FSU, Penn St., UCLA, Texas A&M
New: Betiku is running with a top six of Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Texas A&M and UCLA. USC has offered but isn’t in play. A visit is the next step.
Antonneous Clayton
6-3, 217
Vienna, Ga.
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Alabama, Florida, Clemson, Tennessee
Outlook: Notre Dame offered Clayton during the evaluation period and got an immediate visit scheduled for the Irish Invasion.
Jeremy Darvin
6-2, 280
Nashville, Tenn.
Offer: No Visit: No Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Louisville, Tennessee, Marshall
Update: Notre Dame visited during its first week of spring evaluation and will host Darvin for the Irish Invasion.
Tomon Fox
6-3, 230
Suwanee, Ga.
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: VanGorder Top Offers: Ga. Tech, UNC, N.C. State, Wisconsin, Miami
Update:Fox is tentatively scheduled for the Irish Invasion. ACC programs have been the featured schools in his recruitment thus far.
Rashan Gary
6-4, 280
Paramus, N.J.
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Booker Top Offers: Alabama, FSU, Ohio St., USC, Florida, Clemson
Update:The nation’s No. 1 player plans to visit in late June. With his family intrigued by the Irish, there’s a chance for Notre Dame to be a contender.
Antwuan Jackson
6-3, 295
Ellenwood, Ga.
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Booker Top Offers: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia
New: Jackson will visit for the Irish Invasion, but Notre Dame doesn’t have much time to make an impression with a summer decision on tap.
Khalid Kareem
6-4, 235
Farmington Hills, Mich.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Gilmore Top Offers: Michigan St., Michigan, Alabama, Stanford, Ohio St.
Update:Michigan has taken the lead, but Notre Dame should make Kareem’s first cuts. He lists degree prestige as his No. 1 criteria in finding a school.
Xavier Kelly
6-5, 230
Wichita, Kans.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Gilmore Top Offers: Michigan, Clemson, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Oregon
Update:Irish hosted Kelly on June 10 for the first time. His recruitment is open and the Irish staff believes it has a good chance to get a future official
Carlo Kemp
6-3, 260
Boulder, Colo.
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: ASU, Michigan, Nebraska, UCLA
New: Notre Dame established itself as the team to beat when it offered on June 9. Kemp plans to take official visits in the fall before enrolling early.
Justin Madubuike
6,4, 240
McKinney, Texas
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Lyght Top Offers: Texas, Alabama, Texas A&M, USC
New: Madubuike could visit Notre Dame this summer, but if not, expect the Irish to be in a competitive spot to land an official. The Irish should make the first cut.
Julian Okwara
6-4, 220
Charlotte, N.C.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Committed on April 14
Outlook: Okwara gives the Irish a strong building block at weak side end. The brother of Romeo Okwara isn’t a finished product, but he’s a quality get. Top Stories