Notre Dame End Adetokunbo Ogundeji Could Be A Fast NFL Draft Riser In 2020

Bryan Driskell

The Reese’s Senior Bowl has been great to Notre Dame players during the Brian Kelly era, with past Irish standouts like Zack Martin, Drue Tranquill, Chase Claypool, Troy Pride Jr. and others using that event to boost their NFL Draft stock.

There are a number of Notre Dame players on the radar for that event in 2020, including a pair of defensive ends. Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy has been impressed with Notre Dame ends Adetokunbo Ogundeji and Daelin Hayes for months, even though both weren’t even starters the last two seasons.

The pair didn’t disappoint the Reese’s Senior Bowl executive in the season-opener against the Duke Blue Devils.

Nagy spent time with Irish Breakdown talking about what he likes from both Irish ends, and the development they are getting at Notre Dame. In part one of our interview with Nagy, we’ll focus on his analysis of Ogundeji and the coaching at Notre Dame.

“They are both physical at the point of attack … they can really set a hard edge, they both have heavy hands, they can get off blocks, you can just see how well coached they are,” Nagy explained. “I really think Mike Elston does a great job with those guys at Notre Dame.”

Of course, both of Notre Dame’s starting ends in 2019 were 2020 NFL Draft picks, with Julian Okwara going in the third round to the Detroit Lions and Khalid Kareem going to the Cincinnati Bengals in round five despite not being able to participate in the Senior Bowl or the NFL Scouting Combine due to offseason shoulder surgery.

Recruiting talented players is step one, but developing them is equally important. How the talented ends at Notre Dame play shows Nagy they are also being schooled well.

“Two ways you can really gauge coaching up front is hand use and effort,” Nagy stated. “Both those guys strike blocks and they both chase and play really hard. I think you saw that out of both of those guys against Duke, they both showed up on run downs and pass downs.”

For Ogundeji, his climb to prominence has been a bit unexpected, at least if you focus on star rankings and offer lists coming out of high school. Remember, Notre Dame flipped him from Western Michigan, and his only Power 5 offers were from the Irish, Pittsburgh, Michigan State and Cal.

Now, Ogundeji is using a combination of physical tools and motor to spring board himself into the upper half of the NFL Draft.

“I think when it comes to Ade, what makes him really unique is that for a longer bodied guy he is really physical,” Nagy said of the Irish senior. “Sometimes it’s hard when you’ve got a long lever system like that to be explosive, and he does. He’s got pop in his hands, and when you’re that long and you strike blocks like that you’re just hard to block.

He’s got the reach advantage on pretty much everyone he’s going to go against, and he plays really, really hard,” continued Nagy. “To me he’s a guy who’s just scratching the surface … He’s a guy I could see being a really fast riser. He’s going to take advantage of the expanded role this year. Whether it’s a run down or pass down he’s hard to block, because he’s got heavy hands, and he’s long and he plays really hard.

“Just on sheer effort alone he’s going to effort himself into plays. But what you’re seeing is over the course of last season, from early games to late games is that he’s really figuring out where the ball’s going, what blocking schemes are trying to do to him … he’s going to be a guy that continues to ascend through the season, because the physical tools are all there.”

Ogundeji first jumped into the Irish rotation in 2018, and he was a quality run defender. That continued in 2019, when his ability to be a force on the edge against the run allowed him to thrive. Late in the 2019 season, however, Ogundeji began to make more plays in the pass game. That has continued into the early portion of the 2020 season.

“He’s learning to use his length as a rusher,” noted the Reese’s Senior Bowl executive. “It’s one thing to set an edge and play locked out and make plays in the run game that way. It’s figuring out how to use that length as a pass rusher in terms of transitioning off that initial post move and getting that length and working off that length, which he’s learning how to do.

“He’s got some ability to counter, and he can go speed to power,” he continued. “[Ade] gives blockers a lot to prepare for, he’s not a guy they can just set the same on every time. I think he’s a guy that’s going to continue to develop over the course of the year.

“Some guys just get production off their effort, but Ade’s got the length and he’s got the shock in his hands and he’s got the motor. You put all those things together and I think he’s going to have a really productive year.”

In part two we’ll talk about his thoughts on Hayes.

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