Notre Dame's starting three-technique the last two seasons was Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, and despite performing well at the position, the veteran will be playing the big end position under first-year defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman.
There are a number of reasons for this move, but one thing is certain, if Notre Dame's staff wasn't confident in the next-in-line players this isn't a move they would make. The primary benefactor of the move is rising senior Jayson Ademilola. Perhaps a better way of saying it is a primary driver behind this move is Ademilola's emergence.
A former Top 100 recruit, Ademilola has shown flashes of big-time play throughout his career, but he was never a high volume rep player. Now that he transitions into a starting capacity, much more is being expected of him, and Ademilola is ready to do just that.
You saw his immense potential start to come to fruition in a big way in the final two games of the 2020 season, which happened to come against the two best opponents the Irish faced all season. Ademilola had some edge to him in those games, and it came after the talented interior defender had missed three games with an injury.
"I came back and my first game back was Clemson, and I just had that chip on my shoulder," Ademilola said in a recent interview. "I feel like I brought over that chip of me being injured from the Clemson game in the ACC Championship and also in the playoff, and I feel like I was a dominant player, and that's where I'm picking up from this year."
He led the Irish in quarterback hurries against the Tigers, and he was the defense's highest graded player against Alabama. Ademilola set a career high with 1.5 tackles for loss in the Rose Bowl matchup against Alabama.
Notre Dame is hoping that Ademilola can stay healthy, step into a more full-time role and become the dominant player he was recruited to be. His role has been different his first two seasons. In 2018 and 2019 the New Jersey native was Notre Dame's most productive run defender on a per-snap basis. In 2020 he was used more as a pass rusher, and he was Notre Dame's most productive interior pass rusher on a per-snap basis.
Now, it is time for Ademilola to put it all together.
"For me, I'm a guy who's just always going to attack the football, go find the football," Ademilola said when asked what he brings to the game. "I'm a head hunter, and then when it gets to third down I'm a pass rusher. That's what I do, I can do a little bit of everything and I try to heart myself on everything."
That's exactly what Freeman and defensive line coach Mike Elston want and need from their defensive linemen.
"This new defense, Coach Freeman and Coach Elston, he wants us to go eat," Ademilola expressed, with excitement clearly showing on his face. "He wants us to go out there and make plays, have fun with the unit and that's what the whole defensive scheme is all really about, guys just flying around. I feel like this year, this upcoming season, you're going to see a lot of us getting out there, getting after it. There's going to be some changes but we're all going to be out there making plays this year."
The talent is there for Ademilola to become a dominant player, and Notre Dame needs him to become the player he's always been capable of being. He fits the new defense, he's now a veteran and if he puts it all together he'll have a significant impact for the Irish in 2021.
Note: Video provided by Fighting Irish Media
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