Notre Dame defensive end Justin Ademilola has had a hard time getting the kind of snaps I’m sure he wanted in recent seasons, but that happens when the players that are older than you are NFL players. Ademilola plans on changing that in a big way in 2021.
That was the case the last three seasons, as Ademilola was stuck behind Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara, fifth and third round pick a year ago, and Daelin Hayes and Adetokunbo Ogundeji, who are expected to get drafted in this year’s draft.
Despite the move of Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa to the big end position, Ademilola is poised to step into a more prominent role for the Irish. Although his reps were limited the last three seasons, Ademilola has impressed when he got the opportunity. As a freshman, Ademilola was thrust into action in the Cotton Bowl against Clemson, and he was quite good. That continued into the 2020 season, when Ademilola racked up 17 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss as the backup to Ogundeji.
Although the presence of those talented players kept Ademilola from getting a lot of game reps, it was a great opportunity for him to learn behind smart, hard-working players that will be professional football players.
“Over the years I just learned to keep your head down and continued to work,” Ademilola said of his older teammates. “ … they just told me to keep working every day, every day, stack your successful days and one get percent better every day.”
Ademilola came to Notre Dame with a great work ethic, and from the moment he arrived on campus he put in the work to be ready whenever his number was called.
“I’m always prepared,” explained the rising senior end. “I really get in the film room, I constantly ask my coaches questions about different sets, formations, everything. When I’m on the field it’s just go time for me, whether that’s 20, 25, 30 snaps, I just heart myself on being prepared and ready to work when I’m out there.”
The Irish defense has become accustomed to losing talented defensive linemen and not missing a beat. Kareem and Okwara were stars in 2018 and 2019, and when Okwara went down in his final season he was replaced by Jamir Jones, who was outstanding in the second half of the 2019 campaign. They are all now on NFL rosters.
Hayes and Ogundeji were every bit as good as Okwara and Kareem, if not a bit better, and now they are poised to become professionals. Notre Dame will now look to replace them with Ademilola and Tagovailoa-Amosa, who moved to big end after starting at defensive tackle the last two seasons.
Ademilola expects that combination to be every bit as good as he and Ogundeji were at the position in 2020.
“It’s going to be a crazy 1A/1B punch right there, so stay tuned for that one.”
Tagovailoa-Amosa is likely to get most of the attention due to his experience, but Ademilola is going to get a chance to be a force this season. He’s used to being overshadowed. He was overlooked on his Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Prep team, which had Top 100 recruits Jayson Ademilola (his twin brother) and Shayne Simon on the roster.
That has fueled Ademilola since he arrived on campus, and it’s no different now. He doesn’t plan on being overlooked in 2021.
“I guess you could say I was a little underrated in high school. I just let my tape speak for itself. If people think I’m under the radar this year, or in the shadows, you guys are going to feel me this year on the field.”
Notre Dame Spring Practice Highlights - Practice 1
Notre Dame Spring Practice Highlights - Practice 2
Notre Dame Spring Practice Highlights - Practice 3
Notre Dame Spring Practice Highlights - Practice 4
Notre Dame Spring Practice Highlights - Practice 5
Notre Dame Spring Practice Highlights - Practice 6
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