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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, inside linebacker, consensus four-star

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-2, 215 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: An incoming freshman, Ekwonu has all four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.
Depth chart: While Ekwonu will arrive to an ever-evolving puzzle at linebacker, but it is a puzzle he likely will not be a part of this season. Either junior Jordan Genmark Heath or sophomore Jack Lamb should handle nearly every snap at Buck linebacker, where Ekwonu presumably projects, meaning Ekwonu and classmate J.D. Bertrand will work either on the scout team or on the third-string.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, Ekwonu earned offers from Alabama, Auburn and Michigan, but the No. 15 inside linebacker in the country, per rivals.com, committed to Notre Dame just two months after his official visit, a commitment not surprising many.

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN EKWONU’S NATIONAL LETTER OF INTENT ARRIVED
“With athleticism to spare, Ekwonu could be a candidate at rover early in his career. Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea can never have enough of those, but it is more likely Ekwonu stays inside to utilize his physicality, even if still needing a bit of weight to emphasize that.

“Notre Dame is about to lose two multi-year starters at inside linebacker, but it is hard to envision a freshman filling that role in 2019. Ekwonu may contribute, a la Bo Bauer this season, but much more than that would be a surprise.”

2019 OUTLOOK
When Bauer was mentioned in the previous paragraph, it points to special teams possibilities. Ekwonu could readily fill in on coverage units, perhaps even matching Bauer’s 10 tackles from a year ago. Some may deem such a foolish way to use up a season of eligibility, but that is to underrate special teams’ impacts as a whole. Ekwonu’s length and general athleticism may make him an even more natural fit in the duty than Bauer was.

DOWN THE ROAD
The springtime shuffling and reshuffling at linebacker puts the futures of the incoming freshmen, as well. Ekwonu fits the profile of someone who will make his presence felt at some point, it is just difficult to predict that will occur at Buck, where Lamb has four years remaining, or Mike, where Bauer and sophomore Shayne Simon each have three seasons of eligibility left.

To default to what little is known of any incoming freshman, the No. 232 recruit in his class has too strong a pedigree to expect to wait out three years. In Ekwonu’s case, his long frame and quick hips make him suited to both keeping blockers off him, and thus filling run gaps, as well as to working in coverage. He may not yet be mentally ready to cover collegiate routes, but the skill set should be there, part of why he projects at Buck more than Mike.

WHY NO. 34?
For little other reason than the dozen incoming freshmen reported to campus this week and it seems fitting to squeeze one into the first half of the week. Many Notre Dame linebackers have taken to wearing numbers in the 30s these days, including Lamb and junior Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
Introduction
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 50: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle
No. 40: Drew White, junior inside linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, junior kicker
No. 35: TaRiq Bracy, sophomore cornerback
No. 34: Jahmir Smith, sophomore running back