As the 2022 recruiting cycle chugs along, Notre Dame's defensive haul continues to look more and more impressive. On Friday, the Fighting Irish picked up a commitment from Raburn Gap (Ga.) Nacoochee defensive end Darren Agu, a talented athlete that contributes at both tight end and defensive end for his high school team.
Just last week, Agu picked up scholarships from Notre Dame and Alabama in successive days, but it was the former to earn his commitment. According to Raburn Gap Nacoochee head coach Joe Sturdivant, Agu was impressed with the program's lore, and that ultimately played a role in his decision.
“The incredible education and the support system that comes from going to a school like Notre Dame,” Sturdivant told Irish Breakdown. “To him, I think that's the biggest part. Also, he's Irish so what a cool story, right? The coaching staff has done a great job recruiting him, building the relationship through the process. The history of the school, the history of the program, every game is going to be on television and everyone knows Notre Dame. He might not know much about football growing up, but he sure knew who Notre Dame was. I think that was a big piece for it, and then just feeling comfortable with the virtual tours and the things that he saw. I think that those are all great things.”
Checking in at all of 6-6 and 230 pounds, Agu is one of the more versatile all-around athletic prospects in his class, one who just played 11-man football for the first time last Fall. Agu was born in Ireland before growing up in England and eventually ending up state-side, so the talented prospect took the scenic route before starring for Rabun Gap Nacoochee last season.
As an Eagle, Agu played both ways in 2020 as a disruptive defensive lineman on one side and an athletic tight end who can catch passes going the other way. In all, Agu offered Sturdivant a lot of potential mismatches to coordinate and toy with when devising the gameplan each week.
“He is long, physical and aggressive,” Sturdivant described. “He can bend extremely well. He is built like a basketball player, a power forward that can run like a deer. He's got arms like a wide receiver that can play defensive end and tight end. He played both sides of the field, caught a bunch of big time passes for us, but what really separated him and changed his trajectory is his ability to block. When you can block on that side and show your aggressiveness and the twitchiness and your physicality, that is to me what has separated him.
“A lot of kids can catch passes,” Sturdivant said. “Everyone is playing seven-on-seven these days, but if you're going to get recruited as a tight end you need to block. That showed his physicality and toughness. When you flip it on the defensive side of the ball, you know he's going to put his nose in there and get physical.”
Based on that description, Agu provides a big target downfield, and his tape shows that he's athletic enough to go get the football. Agu has the size and raw power to be a factor run blocking, and that combination helps explain why he's being recruited on both offense and defense.
“I'd say his offers are about split down the middle,” Sturdivant estimated. “He has offers on offense and on defense, and some schools offered him at either side. They wanted to take him on whatever side he fits best in the program. I think that he wants to play defensive line and he wants to be a defensive end. I think that's where his passion is at, and it's rare to find guys that don't want to catch the ball and score touchdowns.”
Agu picked Notre Dame over offers from schools such as Alabama, Penn State, Auburn, Florida State, Miami, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Virginia Tech among others, so he was not short in potential suitors before eventually pulling the trigger. Agu's commitment was a good fit for both player and program, though, as Notre Dame is looking to add not only high quality players but high quality character to the football program. Agu fits the bill.
“He is a leader by example,” Sturdivant added. “He is a great kid off the field. He is a great teammate, great friend to his teammates. He's a really likable young man that is smiling all the time. He's just a good kid that will do things right, and I'm very excited for him. To win and to win fast, you have to have good people. It's always having the right people and I think that's the key. He's the right guy. Whatever program he goes to, they're going to get a great kid that's going to grow into the program. He's so coachable. That, to me, is his highest value. You can coach him and develop him I think way faster than some other kids. He's still new and he's learning and he wants to learn.”
In terms of learning, Agu has taken quickly to playing 11-man ball, and it looks like he could set the edge for Notre Dame down the line. Look for the newest ND pledge to continue taking a step forward this Fall as he continues to grow comfortable playing football.
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