• Assets: Every bit the 6-foot-4 listing by Scout and probably a legit 6-foot-5. Incredible length and wingspan. Covers about as much ground width-wise as a defensive end prospect could. Very long arms make him difficult for an offensive lineman to handle, particularly once the play is strung out and the flow moves laterally.
A high level of athleticism, particularly for such a young player growing into his body. Good burst off the snap of the football. Does a nice job of getting into a forward lean on his pass rush and bringing his legs, which are far from the level strength-wise they’ll eventually be. Gets a notable push upfield. Fast-twitch quickness.
Shows the ability to strike and disengage. Not only covers a lot of ground horizontally, but vertically as well. Shows a high level of pass-rushing athleticism. Much better pad level than one would anticipate for such a long athlete.
• Room for improvement: Technique and strength. From pass-rushing moves to basic run-stopping technique, Ogundeji is in need of hundreds of reps as a defensive lineman, beginning with better, more consistent use of his hands, which is absolutely critical to the success of a football player involved in hand-to-hand combat.
Ogundeji likely is a minimum of 25 pounds away from having enough strength on this level to compete at a defensive end position, although athleticism – of which he has plenty – can eat up the ground not yet covered strength-wise. That lack of strength, however, could make it very, very difficult to get off blocks on this level.
• Top offers: Notre Dame; SEC: None; ACC: Pittsburgh; Pac 12: Cal, Oregon; Big 12: None; Big Ten: Rutgers; MAC: Buffalo, Miami (Ohio), Toledo, Western Michigan.
• Why Notre Dame: Ogundeji verbally committed to Western Michigan in February. But when interest in his long-range ability expanded as far as the Pac 12, he pulled out of his pledge to the Broncos and immediately began giving consideration to others, including Notre Dame, where he camped this summer.
“They’ve been absolutely great,” said Ogundeji of Notre Dame Thursday at his announcement. “When I went there, I thought, ‘This might be it.’ I had a great time there. Me and my mom talked about it. Academics are really high there…The coaching staff, I really had a good relationship with. I loved it.”
Ogundeji says he’s formed a strong bond with defensive line coach Keith Gilmore, who gives him and Notre Dame a chance to develop a fairly unique physical presence at the defensive end position. He also understands it’s a long-term proposition.
“I’ve never really had a pass-rush technique or pass-rush move,” Ogundeji said. “I’ve been working in the off-season on pass rushing and using my hands. I’ve been raw in the run defense, but I can see myself building into a bigger person, a bigger, stronger player…You can never go wrong with more technique.”
• ND’s 2016 defensive end recruiting: The Irish have tossed a wide net in their efforts to land pass rushers. Ogundeji is now the third prospect out of 13 verbal commitments who has a future off the edge at defensive end.
In the fold are Julian Okwara (Charlotte, N.C.) and Jamir Jones, brothers of current Irish defensive linemen Romeo and Jarron. Ogundeji and Okwara definitely are defensive ends; Jones could be a run-stopping Sam linebacker, at least initially.
Notre Dame continues to maintain hope with five-star Oluwole Betiku (Gardena, Calif.).
• ND’s 2016 defensive end depth chart: Romeo Okwara will be gone after the 2015 season, but every other defensive end on the roster has eligibility in 2016 or beyond. Isaac Rochell is the only current defensive end (besides Romeo Okwara) who will be down to one year in ’16.
Andrew Trumbetti, Grant Blankenship and Doug Randolph will have two years of eligibility, and Jonathan Bonner will have three. Incoming freshmen Julian Okwara, Jamir Jones and Ogundeji will have three or four years remaining.
• Summary: Some Irish fans may be getting a bit weary of Notre Dame’s defensive line recruiting, which has become the developmental league in lieu of landing players more ready-made for the next level from an experience/technique/strength standpoint.
Brian Kelly and his staff have learned over the last half-decade that you can beat your head against the wall trying to compete for elite pass rushers – which the Irish still do – or you can seek some diamonds in the rough and spend five years polishing them up. Sometimes that works; most of the time it’s a longshot.
Bottom line: Ogundeji has the basic ingredients – length, athleticism, quickness – that are necessary to be a successful football player on the major college level. Most of the top prospects, however, aren’t starting at Defensive End 101 when they arrive. The best of the best already have a head start, too, in terms of overall strength.
By the same token, a willing student – which Ogundeji appears to be – can make huge strides over the course of five seasons. Of course, that was the mantra a year ago when another raw Michigan prep defensive end prospect, Jhonny Williams, was an exciting catch for the Irish.
It’s unfair to make a direct comparison of Ogundeji to Williams based upon Williams’ quick departure from Notre Dame. The Irish are hoping they’ve found a better fit for the program/school, which ultimately is about as important as the football skills/measurables.
If Ogundeji can develop his God-given skills, they have a guy who could become a real presence at defensive end. It’s either that or go through the fall with too few prospects with which to work, and that never turns out well.