Notre Dame needs pass rush help. That fact made every off-season analysis of the program. It seems it made it to strength and conditioning coordinator Paul Longo’s desk too based on the updated roster released Friday morning.
Freshman defensive ends represented some of the biggest weight gainers since National Signing Day and the biggest slim down since spring practice. Incoming pass rusher Ade Ogundeji jumped 24 pounds to 240 while Julian Okwara added 12 pounds to get to 228. On the flip side Daelin Hayes, who enrolled early, cut seven pounds to get down to 250.
Those three might represent Notre Dame’s best bets for pass rush help.
“Those guys are probably as a group, more ready to play than anybody that we have on our football team,” Kelly said. “So when you say impressed, I mean, I'm impressed with Okwara and … Daelin. Those defensive linemen are going to be very special players.”
Among the returning players, Tristen Hoge led the roster with a 10-pound jump to 310, followed by Brandon Wimbush (+9 to 225), Devin Studstill (+8 to 198), Nick Coleman +5 to 195), Shaun Crawford (+5 to 185), Sam Mustipher (+5 to 310), Andrew Trumbetti (+5 to 255) and Ashton White (+5 to 195).
There were no significant weight drops outside Hayes, although Greer Martini shed five pounds to get to 240 while Jacob Matuska (270) and Colin McGovern (310) also dropped five pounds from their spring weights.
As for the incoming guys beyond Ogundeji and Okwara, here’s how the freshman class put on weight from their National Signing Day measurements:
Jonathan Jones +20 to 220 pounds
Ian Book +10 to 200 pounds
D.J. Morgan +10 to 200 pounds
Donte Vaughn +10 to 200 pounds
Jalen Elliott +6 to 195 pounds
Chase Claypool +5 to 220 pounds
Jamir Jones +5 to 225 pounds
Tommy Kraemer +5 to 315 pounds
Troy Pride Jr. +5 to 180 pounds
Meanwhile, running back Tony Jones Jr. actually dropped four pounds to get down to 215.
While Kraemer’s gains weren’t massive, they were enough to push his way into the right guard competition with Hunter Bivin and Hoge. Kelly said all three would play it out in August. Bivin has barely played the past three years while Hoge is coming off a red-shirt.
And while Kelly added that Mustipher had already won the starting center job, look for that position to include some competition between Mustipher and Hoge during the next month.
Regardless, Kraemer even getting a look at guard would be impressive considering Steve Elmer is the only freshman offensive lineman to play during the Kelly era. Coincidentally, it was Elmer’s retirement that opened the door this position to even be a story.
“Kraemer is the guy that would be involved at that right guard position right now,” Kelly said. “I'd say we would bounce Tristen Hoge over there, as well, take a look at him. So Hoge, Hunter Bivin and Kraemer. Those guys would get the first look going into camp and then kind of play it from there.”