- Class: Sophomore (Eligibility 4)
- On the depth chart: Third string Drop End
- Post-spring status: No Change
A consensus three-star prospect and Scout.com’s 99th-ranked defensive end in the 2015 recruiting class, Adetokunbo Ogundeji is the 28th lowest-rated among 30 defensive line pledges to sign in South Bend during the Brian Kelly era.
But after a necessary season of scout team action as a freshman last fall, Ogundeji showed promise in the handful of brief media practice viewings available last spring.
Ogundeji did something few of us expected – he stood out, at least athletically. And for a Notre Dame defense in flux and in desperate need of pass-rushing aid, that might be enough to break into the rotation in future seasons.
“I feel like they picked me for a reason. They offered me for a reason. They don’t just offer any person for no reason. I want to put as much effort in as I can to prove them right, to make them happy. I’m gonna put as much work in, all the time in the world if I have to, just to do what they want me to do.” – Ogundeji speaking to Irish Illustrated regarding his collegiate future
BEST CASE SCENARIO
A shade over six-foot-four, Ogundeji has already added 35 pounds (listed at 251 in the spring) to his signing day frame. In other words, he’s evolved from “project” to “project with a purpose.”
That purpose for the near future would be rushing the quarterback, likely on third down in obvious passing situations. Notre Dame has other options in that regard, from senior Andrew Trumbetti to sophomore Julian Okwara – both of whom will aid expected starter Daelin Hayes in an effort to apply heat on opposing passers.
But none of the above registered a sack in 2016. And here’s the kicker – nor did any returning defensive lineman on the 2017 Irish roster.
Why would any competitor believe the job is out of his reach?
(For the record: Ogundeji registered two stops including a sack plus a QB Hurry in the 2017 Blue Gold Game.)
WORST CASE SCENARIO
Ogundeji partially tore his MCL early in his senior season of high school, truncating his final campaign. He had a lingering mental battle to tackle during Spring Ball 2017 in South Bend as a result.
“Ade is back from his injury and practiced full-go today,” said Irish head coach Brian Kelly at the tail end of March. “He was a little hesitant to get out there after his first couple of days. We had to coax him a little bit, ‘You’re okay, you can go.’”
“Go” is all they’ll likely ask Ogundeji to do in this, his relative rookie season. “Come off the edge and go get the quarterback.”
If he can’t turn heads in that regard in August Camp, Ogundeji is likely headed for a second season on the scout team in 2017.
If you’re more of the glass half-full type, how about lightly-regarded Romeo Okwara?
Is your glass half-empty? That represents the growing number of “project” recruits that didn’t pan out a la Jhonny Williams.
(If your glass is instead brimming with spirits – and perhaps it’s your sixth such glass on this holiday weekend – there’s always former 2-star Justin Tuck!)
Ogundeji shouldn’t be grouped with any of the recent washouts entering this, his redshirt-freshman campaign. And though it’s impossible to project until at least the conclusion of 2017, I’ll keep my glass half-full and go with his current teammate, Jonathan Bonner, the 79th ranked DE of 2014, former redshirt, and now a contributing member of the rotation entering his penultimate season with the program.