Defensive Talent Aplenty Among Notre Dame Targets At Under Armour Columbus

The defensive side of the football was chock-full of talent at Under Armour Columbus on Sunday, and a laundry list of Notre Dame targets had notable performance
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At the Under Armour Columbus camp over the weekend, Notre Dame targets filled the camp on both sides of the football. I already broke down what I saw from the Irish offensive recruits, and below are my thoughts on the defensive recruits in attendance.

Defensive Line

2023 Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech defensive end Jalen Thompson had a quality day of competition as well. From a physical standpoint, Thompson looks the part and acquitted himself well in both individual drills and one-on-ones. Thompson is a bit raw with his technique at times, but his skill and talent are readily apparent, so that speaks to how good he could be down the line after two more years of high school football before he even steps foot into a college locker room. There is a high ceiling on Thompson, which is why the Fighting Irish got in on this recruitment early with an offer.

I don't know how any team plans to run the ball against Cass Tech next year with Thompson and his teammate Deone Walker lined up side by side, but good luck. They'll need it. Walker was absolutely one of the standout DL at the camp as well. Based on his body composition, Walker is more of an inside lineman at the next level. As a 2022 prospect, he doesn't hold an offer from Notre Dame yet and the program is looking elsewhere to fill that slot in this cycle, but it would be a mistake not to mention Walker's dominance in one-on-one drills. He moves very well for a big fella who is listed at 6-6 and over 300-pounds.

As one of the higher profile recruits at the camp, 2023 Mentor (Ohio) defensive end Brenan Vernon had a quality showing as advertised, but he didn't exactly blow the doors off of any drills. Vernon has good size and measurables for this stage in his development, but the Notre Dame target isn't the most fluid athlete when he's running around. That can be fixed with agility drills down the line, but it's something that stood out just when he was rushing the passer. Vernon could easily grow into a strong-side end at the next level given his frame and the room he has to add mass, so versatility is one feather he has in his cap. However, that versatility is expected to show itself in college in Columbus as Vernon is likely an Ohio State lean at this time.

The best defensive lineman at the event was 2022 Westfield (Ind.) defensive end Popeye Williams. Time and time again, Williams would show his quick burst, ability to bend on the edge and overall aggressiveness and tenacity when rushing the passer. Williams is a physical specimen, and he had one of the most successful days of any defensive linemen in attendance.

Being an in-state prospect from Indiana, Williams has been on Notre Dame's radar for quite some time, but the Irish have already filled up with even better prospects at the position. Williams, though, is picking up steam fast as a strong recruit that knows how to collapse the pocket.

Linebacker

2022 Omaha (Neb.) Burke linebacker Devon Jackson was eager to get back on the field after having his junior campaign canceled-- not postponed but canceled. Given that long layoff, Jackson was anxious to get back on the field, and he was notably perturbed that he did not receive an invitation to Under Armour All-American game off of that showing. For Jackson, competitiveness is a trait that he has in spades.

As far as his recruitment goes, Jackson is planning to take official visits to Arizona State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame in that order once June rolls around. Jackson mentioned how Oklahoma is recruiting him as a middle linebacker since the OU staff wants their edge rushing defenders to be in the 6-4, 240-pound ballpark, and the implication was that he is uncertain he'll be able to put that kind of weight on to play in Norman at the next level. Notre Dame, on the other hand, likes him at rover due to his ability to run.

From a technical standpoint, 2023 Pickerington (Ohio) Central athlete Sonny Styles was listed as a defensive back at the camp, but after seeing him in person, there's no doubt that he'll be a linebacker at the next level. Styles looked not only big and strong, but he moved well and stuck in phase with wide receivers all day long. Styles was not stiff in his hips, and he ripped a couple passes away to cause deflections instead of receptions, so he could grow into a strong linebacker that can cover well at the next level. That could be a scary thought for future offensive coordinators.

Defensive Back

Though he did not work out for much of the camp, 2022 West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West cornerback Jyaire Brown looked good when he did take the field in one-on-ones. Brown has speed for days and positioned his body well between the receiver and the quarterback quite regularly, so his coverage skills are certainly there. There were rumblings that Brown would be visiting Notre Dame over the weekend despite his Ohio State commitment, but that trip to South Bend did not come to fruition. Still, look for the Fighting Irish to kick the tires and try to persuade Brown to make it to campus another time as the program looks for two to three more defensive backs in the '23 cycle. 

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Notre Dame 2022 Class Big Board

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