Notre Dame picked up a significant commitment this week when it landed St. Louis (Mo.) Burroughs defensive end Tyson Ford. A Top 100 recruit, Ford gives the Fighting Irish defense a talented big man to begin building the defensive class around.
Defensive end is a big need for Notre Dame in the 2022 class. The current roster has talent, but the numbers are such that land at least three ends in this class is a must. With the way Mike Elston has recruited the position in recent years, Notre Dame is in a position where it must be willing to focus more on high-upside talent than numbers.
With Ford now in the class, Elston and defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman can focus on adding the top-end talent and depth that is needed in this class. It’s not an extensive board, but it’s a talented board with a lot of talent.
CYRUS MOSS IS A MUST
The top defensive end left on the board is Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman edge player Cyrus Moss, a consensus top 75 national recruit. Moss ranks as the nation’s No. 29 overall player by 247Sports and ranks No. 50 on the 247Sports composite list.
Moss is the exact opposite type of prospect than Ford, and that’s a very good thing should he join the class. Ford is a power player, but Moss is a versatile weakside type of player. Moss can make plays off the edge as a pure end while also possessing the athleticism to play off the ball in coverage.
At 6-4 and 220 pounds with outstanding speed and range, Moss has the size/athleticism combo that would allow him to streamline and play more of an outside linebacker role in a three-down front, where he could be part linebacker and part end. He also has the frame that could allow him to eventually get to 250+ pounds and be more of a traditional end, but one with exceptional athleticism and disruption tools.
The scary thing about Moss is he isn’t anywhere close to being at his full potential. He perfectly defines the five-star upside kind of player that Notre Dame needs on its roster.
Landing Moss to go with Ford would give Notre Dame arguably its best defensive end combination since it landed Aaron Lynch, Stephon Tuitt and Ishaq Williams in the 2011 class.
PLENTY OF QUALITY OPTIONS ON THE BOARD
There are several more talented ends on the board with a variety of skillsets.
Honolulu (Haw.) Punahou edge defender Tevarua Tafiti has been on Notre Dame’s board for quite some time, and he’s from a high school that is well-known to Irish fans. Tafiti is an intriguing player that comes from the same high school as current Notre Dame linebacker Marist Liufau and former Irish star Manti Te’o.
Tafiti is a still developing player that needs to keep filling out his frame. He plays all over the field for Punahou, lining up at inside linebacker as well as playing on the edge. Tafiti spoken highly of Notre Dame in the past, but with visits being paused for so long it’s hard to really get a sense of where they stand, and that won’t change until he visits campus.
Tafiti is a consensus Top 250 player, with Rivals ranking him highest at No. 200. He ranks No. 231 on the 247Sports composite list.
An intriguing player on the board is Boonville (Mo.) High school edge defender DJ Wesolak. His relationship with Notre Dame is still relatively new, with the 6-5, 225-pound end getting his offer in November. Notre Dame will have some ground to make up with him, but landing Ford - a player with whom Wesolak already has a friendship - certainly helps. Ford is already talking to Wesolak about joining him in South Bend, but there’s a long way to go with this one.
Rivals ranks Wesolak as a four-star recruit and the No. 248 player in the country.
One of the more intriguing players on this board is Chantilly (Va.) High School end Aiden Gobaira. Virginia canceling the 2020 fall season means we didn’t get a chance to see Gobaira as a junior. His sophomore film shows a long but very skinny edge player that shows an impressive burst, a strong motor and toughness. The question with Gobaira is how much does he fill out, and how will that impact whether he’s more of a strongside player or a weak side guy.
Penn State is considered the leader for Gobaira, but he’s a guy Notre Dame is going after and making a push for as well. Gobaira is ranked as a three-star recruit, which I get when you consider how thin he was the last time he was on the football field, but there is a lot to like about his game, and his upside is much higher as long as he keeps filling out his broad frame.
Another highly intriguing player on the Notre Dame board is Sun Prairie (Wis.) High School big man Isaac Hamm. At 6-5 and 260 pounds, Hamm is the biggest player on the board, and his frame is such that he could eventually grow into an interior player. What I like, however, is that he shows a really impressive burst off the edge for such a big defender, and his motor is outstanding.
Hamm reminds me a lot of current Notre Dame defensive tackle Rylie Mills in regards to his size/quickness/power combination, but Hamm has more edge player to his projection and game than Mills, who always looked more like an interior defender. There are several Big Ten powers going after Hamm, but Notre Dame will be a player in his recruitment as long as it wants to be.
A strongside combination of Ford and Hamm would be very, very impressive, with both having tools that would allow them to play together in some alignments, assuming one of them doesn’t eventually outgrow the position and become a penetrating, disruptive interior player.
TWO-WAY STANDOUTS ON THE BOARD
There are three two-way players on the board that Notre Dame is also considering for the end position.
Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic end Alex Bauman is the name most Notre Dame fans should be familiar with. His older brother is current Irish freshman tight end Kevin Bauman. Like his older brother, Bauman is a two-way standout for Red Bank Catholic. He could play tight end in college if he wanted to, but right now he’s more of a defensive player for Notre Dame. That could change, but that’s where it is at the moment.
I’ve heard Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne athlete Elijah Brown listed as both a tight end target and a defensive end target for Notre Dame, depending on who I talk to. He could end up being in a similar situation to current freshman Xavier Watts, who was recruited by Notre Dame coaches on both sides of the ball, but he chose offense. Brown was offered as a defensive end, although his primary prep position is tight end.
In fact, I have yet to see any film of him on defense, but Notre Dame clearly likes how his size and athleticism projects to the edge of the defense. I can't say I disagree when you look at his size (6-5, 230, long arms), overall athletic skill set and power potential.
Brown is from the same high school as Freeman and cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens.
Lake Balboa (Calif.) Birmingham athlete Arlis Boardingham is listed as a wide receiver by Rivals and a tight end by 247Sports, but he’s being recruited by Notre Dame as an edge defender. He is yet another player who didn’t get a chance to play the 2020 fall season, but as a sophomore Boardingham showed impressive athleticism, speed and size for such a young player. He is a highly skilled athlete, showing far better skills than you’d expect when you see he’s listed a low three-star recruit by Rivals.
Boardingham is a player I’m keeping my eye on over the next several months to see if his interest in Notre Dame is enough to get him on campus once things open back up.
CAN THE IRISH PULL OFF A SURPRISE?
There are two more highly ranked players on the board for Notre Dame, but right now landing either would be a surprise, but that isn’t stopping Elston and the staff from making a push.
Notre Dame is recruiting Owings Mills (Md.) McDonogh defensive end Dani Dennis-Sutton, a 6-6, 240-pound end that is ranked as a consensus Top 100 recruit. Rivals ranks him as the No. 20 player in the country. Dennis-Sutton has a frame and game that is very similar to Ford.
Another is Arlington (Texas) Martin defensive end Ernest “RJ” Cooper, who ranks as the No. 55 player in the country according to ESPN.
WRAPPING THINGS UP
Ford is a great start to the defensive line class, but the staff isn’t close to being done. The fact they turned up the heat on several players on this board after landing Ford tells me they are serious about adding top talent to the board. Whether that’s in the form a highly ranked player or a guy with a higher ceiling but a lower recruiting profile doesn’t matter, as Notre Dame has shown it can get top-notch play from both types of players.
Landing at least one weak side type of player is a must, and another power player would also be a positive, especially if it’s one with some versatility to his game.
Expect to see Notre Dame expand the board if it doesn't add a player to the class in the very near future. It’s early, but Notre Dame is off to a great start. The key now is finishing.
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