Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 17 Jordan Botelho, sophomore defensive end, full-speed at all times

Jordan Botelho 2021
Notre Dame Athletics
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-2 ½, 248 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Botelho has all four seasons of eligibility remaining thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver. He would have played throughout 2020 with or without that waiver, so it genuinely did save him a season, albeit one he probably will not need in the long run.
Depth Chart: Botelho will back up junior Isaiah Foskey as the Vyper end, formerly known as the Drop end. The duo will be responsible for a hybrid of duties, both rushing opposing quarterbacks and occasionally dropping back into coverage.
Recruiting: An All-American and consensus four-star, Botelho had plenty of offers before Notre Dame pursued him, but he made his decision relatively quickly after the Irish offered a scholarship, despite many expecting Washington to win the Hawaiian product. Rivals.com rated Botelho the No. 11 inside linebacker, where he played in high school, and No. 176 overall prospect in the class.

Botelho did not play in the All-American Bowl, or the Polynesian Bowl, following an altercation in October of 2019 that included a few punches outside of a volleyball state championship. There were no additional penalties for Botelho.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Botelho’s social media presence is minimal, probably best for someone who has shown a need to mature a bit in order to excel at the collegiate level. But there may soon be a marketing opportunity with Botelho for some company needing to emphasize its inability to go anything less than 100 percent, because the sophomore defensive end knows nothing but full-speed.

Be it a parody advertisement or a commitment to an acceptable version of full contact or simply using an entertaining highlight, Botelho’s full-speed approach cannot be ignored or written off as a one-off. It very much is who he is.

CAREER TO DATE
Botelho took only 18 defensive snaps in 2020, but he made his biggest contributions on special teams, highlighted by effecting two punts against South Florida, including recovering one blocked punt for a touchdown.

In 10 games, Botelho made four tackles, all of which may have been hard to foresee during the summer. Botelho was unquestionably talented when he arrived at Notre Dame as an early enrollee, but when he returned to campus in June following the earliest stage of the coronavirus pandemic, Botelho ran afoul of the Irish coaches enough times that they sent him back to Hawaii.

For some players, that would be it. They would either return to campus resentful or not return at all.

“Jordan had a long way to go in maturity and accountability,” defensive line coach Mike Elston said in mid-April. “The best thing for him was that he was sent home. He realized that we’re here about a holistic development and this isn’t just about him getting sacks on Saturday, which he’s going to be able to do because he’s a very talented player, but not to compromise the rest of our group and coach (Brian) Kelly’s culture inside the program.

“We sent him home and it was a reality check. He came back and had a few bumps in the road.”

It took a personal conversation with Elston for Botelho to really flip his script.

“He’s not a finished product yet, but the maturity is showing through and I’m super proud of him and I love him for it.”

RELATED READING: Notre Dame’s holistic approach felt by Jordan Botelho

QUOTES
The maturity Elston worries about is off the field. If Botelho continues to knock Chris Tyree and Jack Coan for a tumble or a stumble in practice, Notre Dame will trust he will grow out of that in time. As an initial impression, it is an encouraging one.

“As we talk about being disruptive, Jordan is one of the leaders of being disruptive,” Irish defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman said. “He’s playing extremely fast. He plays with a violence that, at times, you have to say, ‘Slow down a little bit.’”

That flaw is far preferable to a lack of effort or an ambivalence to practice.

“If we continue to get him lined up right, continue to get him to understand exactly what he has to do within each defense, he’s going to get better and better,” Freeman said. “He plays with the effort, attitude and reckless abandon that we need every member of our defense to play with. That’s why you’ve seen him flash, you’ve seen him make some havoc plays in the background because he plays with an unbelievable motor.”

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN BOTELHO SIGNED TWO YEARS AGO
“Back when Botelho first committed to Notre Dame, watching his film made comparisons to current senior end Julian Okwara unavoidable, given the first snap of [his] highlight reel shows Botelho jumping a route for an interception He can handle coverage, but even in high school, he specialized in chasing the quarterback. In other words, he should fit in quite well as the drop end. …

“Notre Dame will lose its starters on both ends after next season, and though their successors are apparent in current sophomore Justin Ademilola and current freshman Isaiah Foskey, the contributing back-up roles are far from claimed by any of the current reserves. …

“One way or another, Botelho will have a chance to chip in as a sophomore if he can add 10 pounds of muscle in the next 20 months, certainly possible with a headstart as an early enrollee.”

2021 OUTLOOK
Botelho will disrupt opposing defenses this season — as well as their punters, but that will no longer be his greatest effect. Foskey remains the better defensive end, but with Freeman utilizing the Vyper end in coverage, as well, Botelho’s skill set may be more applicable than the usual back up’s.

A season with 150-200 defensive snaps, a handful of tackles for loss and a few sacks should be the bare minimum for Botelho. Add in a few pass breakups and that will be a clear sign that Freeman’s multiple-front scheme is confounding opposing quarterbacks as designed.

Of course, Botelho may risk undoing much of that good will with penalties. At least one personal foul feels inevitable, be it a late hit or a targeting call. Similar to how senior linebacker Bo Bauer’s intensity was often counterproductive until he began to harness it last season, Botelho’s full-speed approach has a drawback. The question will be how pivotal the moment is when his aggression backfires.

DOWN THE ROAD
Foskey is an NFL-ready prospect already, but his 2021 will determine his draft status. (Unlike junior safety Kyle Hamilton, for example, who has already shown enough to be a surefire early first-round pick.) If Foskey receives lower than a second-round grade, he may return in 2022.

Either way, Botelho’s defensive work should only increase moving forward. If he is in a timeshare in 2022, that will be more of an equal approach than currently, and if the position is his to lead, he will need to do so both on and off the field.

That latter facet may determine Botelho’s long-term ceiling more than anything else, and for Notre Dame’s sake, the hope is Botelho does not need to be sent back to Hawaii again to grapple with the responsibilities he now holds.

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
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, senior defensive end
No. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr., senior receiver, team favorite
No. 18 Nana Osafo-Mensah, junior defensive end, coming back from a knee injury
No. 17 Jack Coan, graduate quarterback, Wisconsin transfer