4. College Football News Preview 2020: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Defense 3 Things To Know
– Defensive coordinator Clark Lea put together a strong group last year – the Irish finished 18th in the nation allowing 322 yards and 18 points per game – but the run defense was just okay, the pass rush was hit-or-miss, and there was a huge problem at coming up with stops in the red zone. More on that last one a little later.
Four key parts were lost to the NFL Draft, but overall this should be another strong group as long as the line can quickly replace Jamir ones, Julian Okwara, and Khalid Kareem on the ends.
It starts with needing and hoping for Daelin Hayes to be back to 100% after missing most of last year with a shoulder injury. The 6-4, 266-pounder has the upside to lead the team in sacks, and then it’s up to senior Adetokunbo Ogundeji to rise up on the other side.
The ends won’t be as good, but they’ll be fine. The interior is rock-solid with 6-3, 285-pound junior Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and 6-2, 295-pound junior Kurt Hinish holding things down on the inside. They’re not flashy, but they’re good, with the hope of 2019 star recruit Jacob Lacey to rise up as an interior pass rusher.
– Leading tackler and sacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is back in a hybrid role on the outside where he’s able to roam free and make big things happen, and 6-0, 230-pound Drew White is back in the middle after tying with Owusu-Koramoah with 80 stops. Those two are set, with several options – 233-pound sophomore Jack Lamb and 228-pound junior Jordan Genmark-Heath at the top of the list – looking to fill out the other outside spot.
– The Irish didn’t play all that many teams that threw the ball all over the yard, but they did face Kedon Slovis and the USC attack, Jake Fromm, and Bryce Perkins from Virginia, and they still managed to finish third in the nation in pass defense and fifth in pass efficiency D. Nine of the 13 touchdown passes were were allowed in four games.
This group was terrific, and now it has to undergo a bit of an overhaul.
Sophomore Kyle Hamilton is a big-time playmaker at one safety job, making 41 tackles with four interceptions with six broken up passes. Junior Houston Griffith has waited his turn, and now it’s his strong safety job. Add in Ohio Stat transfer Isaiah Pryor, and this should grow into a strength.
The corners are a bit more of a concern with a battle for the two spots. There’s a ton of young talent with Isaiah Rutherford and TaRiq Bracy two good prospects, and NC State transfer Nick McCloud will get a long look.