In less than a month, Notre Dame’s new defensive coordinator has added a pair of 6-foot-6 defensive end commitments. The getting might not stay this good for Marcus Freeman, but with consensus three-star defensive end Aiden Gobaira (Chantilly High School; Va.) committing Saturday afternoon, the honeymoon period will last at least a bit longer.
After visiting campus last week, though not meeting with any coaches or touring any facilities due to the continuing coronavirus-caused recruiting dead period, Gobaira chose the Irish over expected frontrunner Penn State, both Virginia and Virginia Tech, half the Big Ten, Arizona State representing the West Coast, and Vanderbilt as both an SEC representative and perhaps a Notre Dame recruiting challenger to keep an eye on for the next cycle or two.
“Why not Notre Dame is the question, really,” Gobaira told Blue & Gold Illustrated. “You have a great academic school that’s in the top 20 in the country, you have a football program that was just in the College Football Playoff. It’s just the best of both worlds.”
Gobaira’s length alone makes him an intriguing prospect, the No. 26 weakside defensive end in the class, per rivals.com. He has yet to play a junior season — Virginia may yet squeeze in a condensed schedule this spring — but his sophomore film showed Gobaira is already strong enough to handle a blocker while making a tackle. If he adds a bit more muscle to his 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame, Gobaira will be the physical prototype of a Power Five defensive end.
Despite his length, Gobaira is agile enough to get around the edge of the line, not to mention fast enough to track down plays on the other side of the field.
Both Gobaira and consensus four-star Tyson Ford (John Burroughs School; St. Louis) may be ideal Vyper ends in Freeman’s defense, a position designation the defensive coordinator has said will remain unchanged as he attempts to adapt more to his players than forcing them to bend toward his past lexicon. (Past Vypers: Daelin Hayes, Julian Okwara.)
Defensive line coach Mike Elston further suggested the role of the Vyper will remain unchanged under Freeman.
“The Vyper position is going to always be standing up in a two-point stance,” Elston said Wednesday as the Irish finished the 2021 recruiting cycle. “They’re going to be involved in coverage maybe 15-20 percent of the game where they’re going to cover a tight end man-to-man or cover a running back. We’ll move them back to the second level at times off the ball and blitz them from there and hit them in B-gap or do different things with them. We’ll play on third downs with more Vypers in the game than (Big) defensive ends because there’s some coverage components and things like that.
“The Vyper, we want them to be a little bit more athletic in moving in space and coverage (than the Big defensive ends), but both of them need to be elite pass rushers.”
In joining Ford, Gobaira is the sixth commitment in the 2022 class, a recruiting cycle that will be marked by a possible nationwide shortage in scholarships as schools navigate the effects of the blanket eligibility waiver during the pandemic and the expected approval of an allowance for a one-time transfer for each player without a season sidelined.