Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end

Devin Aupiu
@aupiu44

Listed measurements: 6-foot-5 ¼, 220 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: The one class on Notre Dame’s roster with clear eligibility parameters, Aupiu has four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Aupiu should tag-team with classmate (and fellow Californian and defensive end; these two will be compared incessantly the next few years) Will Schweitzer as the third-string Vyper/drop end behind junior Isaiah Foskey and sophomore Jordan Botelho.
Recruiting: A consensus three-star prospect and the No. 38 defensive end in the class, per rivals.com, Aupiu flipped his commitment to the Irish from UCLA only a week before December’s early signing period, after being committed to the Bruins for seven months and only recently being offered a scholarship to Notre Dame.

Much like Schweitzer’s recruitment being one of the last in-person visits for Irish coaches, Aupiu’s time learning about Notre Dame served as an example of pandemic recruiting. Taking a look at UCLA was easy for the Southern California native. Taking a look at northern Indiana, well, may have been even easier.

“Everything about [Notre Dame] is televised and on YouTube, so I’ve done my own research,” he said when he flipped his commitment. “I’ve done a lot of research on YouTube. The best way to get to know something is to see it. If you can’t be there in person, so I’ve seen the pep rallies, filling up the stands and stuff like that.”

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
The internet loves to slander people who slander In-N-Out, so this is not intended to stoke them, but as someone who has never thought all that much of In-N-Out, Aupiu made it look bothersomely good in this video from December’s signing period. And that aggravates this scribe, having just spent a week in Los Angeles and San Diego and never got In-N-Out once.

QUOTE
Handing over a lengthy and raw defensive end prospect to Irish defensive line coach Mike Elston has worked well through Notre Dame’s four-years-and-counting resurgence. He expects similar results with Aupiu, and not only because of that wingspan.

“The great thing about Devin is that he’s a football junkie,” Elston said in February. “When we talked during the recruiting process, it wasn’t about the glitz and the glamour. He wanted to talk football.

“He wanted to know why [former Irish defensive end Daelin Hayes] is in a two-point stance with his outside foot up and his inside foot back? ‘I think I’ll feel more comfortable with my inside foot up.’”

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN AUPIU SIGNED
“Elston will find a way to get any viable defensive line contributor onto the field, a significant aspect of the defense’s success the last few years. With both defensive ends matriculating after this season, he will need to find new contributors moving forward. Some are already obvious (Jordan Botelho), but there will be snaps to be had. That said, it should be acknowledged Aupiu has not played since 2019. Early enrollment will help with that rust, but that return to football speed may take some time.”

2021 OUTLOOK
It would be smart, in the long-term, for Notre Dame to play both Schweitzer and Aupiu in no more than four games apiece this season, thus preserving a year of eligibility, but that will leave the Irish with only two every-game Vyper ends. Staggering Schweitzer’s and Aupiu’s appearances will cover most of that, eight of 13 (or 14) games in the season.

But a gap that size may force one into more action than just four games. Aupiu’s health and length, compared to Schweitzer, make him the more likely candidate for an extended run. That could also play into some special teams contributions, or vice versa.

Even then, while the reps will be worthwhile, it will be only in minimal duty, as Foskey and Botelho look ready to unleash a dynamic duo off that edge.

DOWN THE ROAD
Foskey may have reason to head to the NFL after the 2021 season. It is not such that it would be a surprise if he did not, but consider the possibility a toss-up for this conversation.

That will leave only Botelho on the Vyper end, a pivotal position in new Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman’s scheme. Aupiu’s length will expedite his path to playing time, as well as garner certain comparisons to developmental successes of the past. (It has taken great effort not to mention Ade Ogundeji yet, achieved only because he and Aupiu play different positions.)

Every recruiting cycle, one or two players get more buzz than their rankings reflect. In the pandemic cycle, that was Aupiu. His penchant for defensive playmaking was de-emphasized in this recruiting process by California not having a fall football season.

More often than not, that kind of quiet hype anecdotally hints at a junior year breakthrough, so go ahead and keep an eye on Aupiu heading into 2023.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end

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