Notre Dame: Top 5 Defensive Tackle Recruits Of The Last Decade

Bryan Driskell

Notre Dame has thrived recruiting the defensive end position for much of the last decade, but the defensive tackle position has been more of a struggle. Consistency has been the issue, but the Irish have been able to land some talented interior players during the Brian Kelly tenure.

Below is my ranking of the five best defensive tackle recruits to sign with Notre Dame during the last decade. It takes into account the rankings from the recruiting services as well as my own analysis of each player. It is only a breakdown of what each player was as a recruit, not what they became in college.

1. LOUIS NIX, 2010

Recruited By: Tony Alford

ESPN — #64 nationally
247 — #77 nationally
Rivals — #85 nationally
Scout — #102 nationally

Nix had quite an interesting recruitment. He signed in Kelly’s first class, but he actually committed to Notre Dame during the period after Charlie Weis’s departure and prior to Kelly being hired. It was quite an impressive recruitment for Alford, who was able to convince Nix to pick Notre Dame despite the Irish not having a head coach.

Nix was just two spots away in the Scout rankings from being a consensus Top 100 recruit. His combination of size, power and initial quickness made him a force up the middle of the Jacksonville (Fla.) Raines defense. Nix played in the Under Armour All-American Game.

2. SHELDON DAY, 2012

Recruited By: Mike Elston

Scout — #50
247 — #80
ESPN — #143
Rivals — #244

Day didn’t have prototypical size, but he was an outstanding high school football player for Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central. He had offers from all over the country but the Irish staff, led by line coach Mike Elston, was able to keep him close to home. Day was a dominant force against the run and he could get after the quarterback at a high level.

Day was ranked as a Top 100 recruit by Scout and 247Sports, and Scout ranked him as a five-star recruit. Rivals wasn’t nearly as high on the Indiana native, but he ranks this high due to the two Top 100 rankings and my grade, which also had him as a Top 100 recruit.


Recruited By: Mike Elston

247 — #45
Rivals — #169
ESPN — #237

Notre Dame got on Ademilola and his twin brother Justin very early in the recruiting process, and both committed to the Irish while they were still sophomores. Notre Dame beat Michigan for their services, and at the time Justin was considered to be the better prospect, but over the next two seasons Jayson developed into one of the nation’s top defensive tackles.

247Sports ranked him as the 45th best player in the country, and I graded him as a Top 100 recruit. Rivals was very late jumping him up their rankings despite him dominating The Opening prior this senior season, and then dominating as a senior. Like Day, Ademilola was a bit undersized, but his quickness and attacking skills were top-notch.

4. JACOB LACEY, 2019

Recruited By: Mike Elston

Rivals — Unranked (four-star)
ESPN — #115
247 — #177

Many of Notre Dame’s best defensive tackles of the last decade were on the smaller side, and Lacey was no different. I ranked Lacey out as a Top 100 caliber recruit, and ESPN had him just outside the Top 100. Rivals was way off the mark with Lacey, who was the Kentucky 5A Player of the Year while leading Bowling Green (Ky.) South Warren to an undefeated season and a state championship in his final season.

Lacey committed to Notre Dame very early in the process, choosing the Irish over Clemson and other top programs. He was more of a plugger early in his career, but by the time his prep career was over he was just as effective at getting after the quarterback as he was shutting down the run, and Lacey could take over and dominate games.


Recruited By: Mike Elston

Rivals — #139
ESPN — #179
Scout — #146
247 — #209

When I evaluated Ewell I saw a Top 100-150 caliber player, and my thought was he was about as sure of a prospect as you could find. Maybe not a star talent upside wise, but his size and power alone should have made him an effective college player. It didn’t turn out that way, but that’s what he showed in high school.

Ewell was a consensus Top 250 recruit, and both Rivals and Scout ranked him as a Top 150 recruit. It didn’t work out for him, but Elston and the Irish staff worked hard to get him to the class, and at the time it was a huge win.

NOTES: Class of 2015 signee Jerry Tillery deserves to be on this last if you look at his recruiting rankings, the problem is that half of the recruiting services graded him as an offensive tackle. I also graded Tillery out as an offensive tackle, and to be honest, he turned out to be much better in college on defense than I thought he would be. But the fact he was ranked more as an offensive lineman is why he wasn't on this list.

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Comments (3)
No. 1-2

Coach 2 things. 1) What went wrong with Ewell? How did everyone miss out on him was there things on tape you didn’t see ?
2) I thought at the time you were higher on Lacy in your personal rankings I thought you had him as a top 50 guy? Because I remember you expected him to make an immediate impact


EWELL - I liked him a lot as a NT type. The only thing that really concerned my was that both OSO/MICH passed him up.