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Notre Dame’s projected 2020 defensive depth chart

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By the standard metric, Notre Dame returns only five starters, but in practical terms, Clark Lea’s defense can claim eight returning starters. Among the tentative starters, only two are not seniors or graduate students, the youngest of which will arguably be the most-talented Irish player — offense or defense — next season, if not certainly the most-hyped.

Consider the below depth chart simply a projection of the spring version. If it sparks any questions, email them to insidetheirish@gmail.com.

DEFENSIVE ENDS — 9
Drop, better known as formerly the domain of possible first-round draft pick Julian Okwara.
Daelin Hayes — A fifth-year in 2020, last year of eligibility
Isaiah Foskey — A sophomore in 2020 with all four years of eligibility remaining thanks to judicious usage in 2019.
Kofi Wardlow — Senior with two years of eligibility remaining
Jordan Botelho — An early-enrolled freshman, presumably on the Foskey-path.
Alexander Ehrensberger — An early-enrolled freshman with ample development between him and playing time.

Strong end, where dynamic, big-bodied talents play if they are not lining up at tackle on passing-specific downs.
Ade Ogundeji — A fifth-year in his last season
Justin Ademilola — Junior with three years of eligibility remaining
Ovie Oghoufo — Junior with three years of eligibility remaining
NaNa Osafo-Mensah — Sophomore with four years of eligibility remaining

Where Notre Dame was, is & will be: Defensive line

DEFENSIVE TACKLES — 9
Nose tackle, theoretically more of a point of attack-holding duty than anything else, though no one would scoff at play-making.
Kurt Hinish — A senior in his final season in 2020
Jacob Lacey — Sophomore with three years of eligibility remaining
Ja’Mion Franklin — Junior with three years of eligibility remaining, now fully recovered from a 2018 quad tear, one that limited him to 114 snaps in 2019.
Hunter spears — Sophomore with four years of eligibility remaining
Aidan Keanaaina — Incoming freshman.

3-technique, ideally the interior play-maker. Think of Jerry Tillery’s senior year.
Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa — Senior with two years of eligibility remaining
Jayson Ademilola — Junior with two years of eligibility remaining; may force a timeshare in 2020, which Irish fans should consider nothing but a good thing.
Howard Cross — Sophomore with four years of eligibility remaining; could cross-train at defensive end, but the depth is more vital on the inside.
Rylie Mills — An early-enrolled freshman.

LINEBACKERS — 11
Rover, operating under the belief that Notre Dame will be best-served by 2020 senior Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah remaining at Rover rather than moving to Buck.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah — Senior with two years of eligibility remaining
Paul Moala — Junior with two years of eligibility remaining thanks to excelling on special teams.
Jack Kiser — Sophomore with four years of eligibility remaining
Marist Liufau — Sophomore with four years of eligibility remaining.

Where Notre Dame was, is & will be: Linebackers

Mike, more-logically known as the middle linebacker, fulfilling many of those traditional duties.
Drew White — Senior with two years of eligibility remaining
Bo Bauer — Junior with two years of eligibility remaining
JD Bertrand — Sophomore with four years of eligibility remaining.

Buck, where Asmar Bilal shined in 2019 after one decent year at Rover following three years of just about no production.
Jordan Genmark Heath — Senior with one year of eligibility remaining
Jack Lamb — Junior with three years of eligibility remaining; coming off a pectoral injury in 2018 and a hip injury in 2019, Lamb has shown a knack for work in coverage … when healthy.
Shayne Simon — Junior with two years of eligibility remaining
Osita Ekwonu — Sophomore with four years of eligibility remaining.

CORNERBACKS — 8
Field, the wide side of the field, where both the proven Irish cornerbacks are more comfortable, though only one can start here, meaning the other will inevitably end up a section further below.
TaRiq Bracy — Junior with two years of eligibility remaining; had seven pass breakups in 2019, leading Notre Dame.
KJ Wallace — Sophomore with four years of eligibility remaining
Caleb Offord — Early-enrolled freshman
Clarence Lewis — Incoming freshman.

Boundary, where a physical presence is best, and though he may be undersized, this prospective starter has never shied from contact.
Shaun Crawford — A sixth-year senior, granted an extra year of eligibility by an NCAA waiver.
Isaiah Rutherford — Sophomore with four years of eligibility remaining
Cam Hart — Sophomore with four years of eligibility remaining; a former receiver moved to cornerback in part because of the log jam on the offensive side of the ball and in part because of the size of his 6-foot-2 frame.
Ramon Henderson — An early-enrolled freshman, the last of Notre Dame’s 2020 commits and subsequent signees.

Where Notre Dame was, is & will be: Defensive backs

SAFETIES — 5
Kyle Hamilton — Sophomore with three years of eligibility remaining and conceivably a preseason All-American candidate. That may seem ambitious, but it would hardly be a shock.
Isaiah Pryor — Ohio State graduate transfer with two years of eligibility remaining
Houston Griffith — Junior with two years of eligibility remaining after bouncing between cornerback and safety the last two seasons.
DJ Brown — Junior with three years of eligibility remaining who played in nine games last season as the only real relief to Hamilton and seniors Jalen Elliott and Alohi Gilman.
Litchfield Ajavon — Sophomore with four years of eligibility remaining.