Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 19 Justin Ademilola, senior defensive end

Justin Ademilola 2021
Notre Dame Athletics

Listed measurements: 6-foot-1 ¾, 248 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A senior, Ademilola still has three seasons of eligibility remaining thanks to prudent and foresightful usage as a freshman and then the universal pandemic eligibility waiver adding a season to his clock.
Depth Chart: Notre Dame has started only NFL draft picks ahead of Ademilola throughout his career, keeping him from breaking through as was hinted at in his freshman season. That run looked like it would finally end this year, giving Ademilola a chance to start and own the “Big” end position, until fifth-year defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa moved to end this spring partly because of his own wishes and partly because the Irish enjoy extensive depth at defensive tackle. Tagovailoa-Amosa Will Likely end up on top of the depth chart, but he and Ademilola should work within a genuine 50/50 split more than anything else.
Recruiting: When compared to his twin brother Jayson, a defensive tackle, Justin was considered the lesser recruit. As a consensus three-star prospect, that skepticism may have seemed warranted, but it is not rare for the No. 34 strongside defensive end in the class, per rivals.com, to get offer sheets that include the likes of Alabama, Clemson and Miami. For example, the Irish lost out to Michigan for David Ojabo the following year (also a three-star, also the No. 34 strongside end, also sought by Clemson).

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
The early usages of NIL rights have showcased some twins to great profits, and the Ademilola twins are following that trend.

Logically, every player should eventually end up with a deal with a  nutrition or supplement brand, if to no greater extent than to receive free product.

CAREER TO DATE
Ademilola appeared in four blowouts as a freshman, but one of them was in the competitive portion of the Cotton Bowl. He had impressed enough in the early routs for Notre Dame to send him after Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers, to reasonable success as he logged two tackles.

He remained behind both Khalid Kareem and Ade Ogundeji in 2019 and then Ogundeji in 2020, but to no fault of his own. Kareem and Ogundeji both impressed enough to go from recruiting projects to fifth-round draft picks.

2018: 4 games; nine tackles.
2019: 8 games; nine tackles with one for loss.
2020: 12 games; 17 tackles with 2.5 for loss including one sack.

QUOTES
A sentiment that traces back to 2018’s National Signing Day, the Irish coaching staff has long relished the thought that Justin Ademilola was overshadowed by his brother during their recruitments, creating a bit of a chip on Justin’s shoulder.

“I know Justin is going to come in with a chip on his shoulder,” defensive line coach Mike Elston said on 2018’s National Signing Day. “The world has kind of made him second fiddle to his brother, which I’m all good with. I hope he does have a chip.

“I think he’ll be the surprise of the class. I think he’s going to come in and the plan is to get them both ready to play if we need them, and see what happens.”

Justin often downplays that thought, but this spring he granted the premise, at least a bit.

“I guess you can say I was a little underrated in high school,” he said in early April. “I just let my tape speak for itself.

“If people think I’m under the radar this year or in the shadows, you guys are going to feel me this year on the field.”

2021 OUTLOOK
While Tagovailoa-Amosa did not switch positions as a graduate student to do anything but start and improve his NFL stock, Ademilola has shown too much to be relegated to simple backup status. His 35 career tackles undersell how much Ademilola has consistently held his own as Notre Dame’s bigger end.

He took 233 snaps in 2020, a number that should cross 300 this year and perhaps near 350. At that point, Ademilola and Tagovailoa-Amosa would genuinely be splitting reps, with any starting defender taking more than 600 snaps considered a full-time player.

Rather than look at pure tackle numbers, though, Ademilola’s success should be gauged through tackles for loss. As well as he has played in his three years, finding the ball carrier in the backfield only 3.5 times is not enough. The Irish will look for him to reach that number in 2021 alone, if not get to five or six tackles for loss.

If Ademilola can do that, and then Tagovailoa-Amosa amass an equal number, suddenly Notre Dame’s more physical end position will be more than serviceable, if not back to the standard Kareem set when he made 10.5 tackles for loss on his own in 2018 or when he and Ogundeji combined for 17 in 2019.

It would be rash to predict such lofty numbers from the present duo, partly because of an honest acknowledgement of talent differentials and partly because new Irish defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman may use three-man fronts in certain situations, perhaps diminishing the chances for Ademilola to wreak havoc.

But 5-6 tackles for loss would suggest Freeman still enjoys a potent defensive line, one that may have been part of the reason he joined Notre Dame despite overtures from across the country this offseason.

DOWN THE ROAD
A sixth season with the Irish may be a reach for Tagovailoa-Amosa. He sought the position change as a “last ride” type of elevation, an opportunity to enhance his professional profile while also playing at the position he long desired. He did not pitch it as a long-term development plan.

Thus, Ademilola should have the leading role to himself in 2022, a moment to showcase himself as an NFL prospect after every moment of his career has been viewed through the lens of his brother, tracing all the way back to his recruitment.

Notre Dame’s defensive line recruiting is gaining too much momentum to think Ademilola may be around into 2023, even if his eligibility currently allows it thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver, but a strong 2022 could create a possibility at the next level for Ademilola.

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
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception
No. 38 Jason Onye, incoming and raw freshman defensive end
No. 37 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
No. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, senior cornerback, possible nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker
No. 26 Clarence Lewis, sophomore cornerback, second-year starter
No. 25 Philip Riley, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, speedy sophomore running back
No. 24 Jack Kiser, junior linebacker, onetime pandemic hero
No. 23 Litchfield Ajavon, junior safety
No. 23 Kyren Williams, junior running back
No. 22 Logan Diggs, incoming freshman running back
No. 22 Chance Tucker, freshman cornerback
No. 21 Lorenzo Styles, early-enrolled freshman receiver
No. 21 Caleb Offord, sophomore cornerback
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, senior running back, coming off an offseason with a smirch
No. 20 Justin Walters, early-enrolled freshman safety and likely early special teams contributor
No. 19 Jay Bramblett, junior punter

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