Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3, 305 pounds
2020-21 year, eligibility: An incoming freshman, Keanaaina will have four seasons of eligibility remaining whenever he can get to South Bend.
Depth chart: Keanaaina joins an increasingly well-stocked position group, fitting in as no better than fourth among Notre Dame’s defensive tackles, led by senior Kurt Hinish and sophomore Jacob Lacey with junior Ja’Mion Franklin presumably gaining steam along with full-blown health, after suffering a ruptured quad back in 2018.
Recruiting: A Colorado four-star prospect and ranked the No. 30 defensive tackle in the class, per rivals.com, Keanaaina chose the Irish over the closer options of Nebraska, Cal and Wisconsin.
WHAT WAS SAID WHEN KEANAAINA’S LETTER OF INTENT ARRIVED
“Simply looking at Keanaaina makes it clear why the Irish sought him. With collegiate strength and conditioning, he should develop a run-stopping frame for the middle of the line.
“… Along with classmate Rylie Mills, Keanaaina gives the Irish their next generation of defensive tackles. The chance to truly take over that role may not arrive until 2022, but signing pairs of four-star tackles at a time is a newfound development for Notre Dame, so when that day comes, it will be a welcome one.”
In a normal year, the summer focus would be on getting Keanaaina into physical shape to offer 15-20 snaps if called upon due to injury, as Franklin was briefly needed two years ago when Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa broke his foot. Alas, nothing is normal in 2020.
This is not to pick on Keanaaina. This concern will apply to each lineman on every team this summer or this fall, whenever teams can get together again to begin conditioning. Getting them into shape to provide power off the snap will be one challenge; betting them into shape to handle a two-hour workout will be another. That pertains doubly to freshmen who have spent no time whatsoever in a collegiate strength and conditioning program.
“[We’ll] really work on making sure we are properly conditioned as a group,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said a week ago. “We’ll probably look at heart rate a little bit more and make sure cardiovascular is at the top of the list. We never worried about cardiovascular coming into camp, but we want to make sure we’re fit form that standpoint.”
DOWN THE ROAD
Jonathan Bonner’s career was never glamorous. He intended to retire from football with eligibility remaining due to a wrist injury before a last-minute change of heart led to 23 tackles in Notre Dame’s charge to the 2018 College Football Playoff. Bonner finished his career with 67 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, three of which were sacks, but he was never supposed to be a distinctive playmaker.
Bonner’s role was to take up space and occupy blockers. At 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds, he served that role well, allowing linebackers Te’von Coney and Drue Tranquill to chase down ball carriers largely unimpeded.
If Keanaaina can grow into that duty, it will be a great benefit to the Irish. It allows linebackers and defensive ends alike to feast, a service for a greater good, the type of performance that flies beneath the radar in seasons to remember.
WHY NO. 92?
Simply enough, Keanaaina wore the number in high school and it currently sits unoccupied on Notre Dame’s roster. Maybe come June, or September, or whenever, he will don a different pair of digits, but why overthink his placement in this annual exercise?
NOTRE DAME 99-TO-2:
No. 99 Rylie Mills, early-enrolled freshman defensive lineman
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, German defensive end
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, senior defensive tackle
No. 94 Isaiah Foskey, sophomore defensive end