Notre Dame hopes the day’s second interruption can rush the quarterback.
In the final stages of Brian Kelly’s National Signing Day press conference, minutes after safety Jeremiah Owusu-Karomoah had called in his commitment, recruiting assistant Jasmine Johnson walked down the steps of the Gug auditorium to stop Kelly for a second time.
Instead of a phone call, this was just a sheet of paper that three-star defensive Kofi Wardlow had signed, Notre Dame flipping him from Maryland.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound athlete from St. John’s College High School in Washington D.C. was Notre Dame’s 21st and final signee on Wednesday.
“We were looking for one more pass-rusher,” Kelly said. “We think Kofi has some elite skills at the defensive end position where he can grow and develop. We really liked his athleticism and his size. Really impressed with him in person.”
Wardlow officially visited Notre Dame on the Jan. 20 recruiting weekend as an apparent long shot simply based on his lack of familiarity with the Irish. While defensive coordinator Mike Elko made Wardlow one of his first school visits of the contact period, at that point Notre Dame had visited Wardlow more than Wardlow had visited Notre Dame.
But the Irish needed pass rush help badly in this class, hoping to split Wardlow and three-star defensive end Jalen Harris. When Notre Dame couldn’t flip Harris off Arizona yesterday, it gladly took Wardlow away from Maryland instead.
“He really fit the profile,” Kelly said. “He reminded us of a young Romeo (Okwara). Not quite as long, but is actually thicker than he is. He's just a really young, raw, extremely athletic guy, a guy that we think can develop into a really nice edge player for us.”
Wardlow gave Notre Dame five defensive linemen in this class, joining defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa as National Signing Day gets. Defensive end Jonathan MacCollister, defensive tackle Darnell Ewell and defensive tackle Kurt Hinish came in with little drama earlier. All are three-star prospects, save Ewell.
But while those other four may be similar, Wadlow is different in build and experience. He’s played just two years of high school football, that inexperience marking another similarity to Okwara.
“The senior year the light just goes off and he just kind of explodes, but he’s still developing,” Elko said. “A kid that that’s still developing and a kid that can add a pass rush to our defense.”
Notre Dame is banking on it.