Defensive end Devin Aupiu spent more time committed to UCLA than he did enrolled at Notre Dame. The early-enrolled freshman announced Tuesday evening that he will enter his name into the transfer portal.
From southern California, Aupiu originally committed to UCLA in April of 2020. It was not until the week before December’s early signing period that he de-committed and flipped his pledge to the Irish.
Aupiu would not have been in line for much meaningful playing time in 2021, but that was always to be expected of his freshman season.
From a purely speculative standpoint, some quick transfers like this may be expected from the recruiting class of 2021. Nationwide, every early-enrolled and incoming freshman signed a National Letter of Intent without ever officially visiting campus. In Aupiu’s case, he had YouTube videos serve as his understanding of South Bend.
Combine that unavoidable reality with the recent implementation of the one-time transfer rule in which a player no longer has to spend a year idling before playing, and some quick transfers from the class may be logical.
That said, the transfer portal is already overwhelmed with players. Finding a home may be difficult for many.
The entirety of Aupiu’s “99-to-0” entry from earlier this summer, exactly as it ran then:
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.
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) December 16, 2020
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.”
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.