Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 7 Isaiah Foskey, star junior defensive end, Vyper

Isaiah foskey
ACC Media

Listed measurements: 6-foot-4 ⅞, 257 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A junior, Foskey has four seasons of eligibility remaining thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver and prudent usage as a freshman, though the latter was somewhat unnecessary because Foskey has looked like a clear NFL prospect since he first arrived at Notre Dame, rendering any chance of him using a fifth year always unlikely.
Depth Chart:  Foskey will start for the Irish as the Vyper end, formerly known as the “Drop” end, a role that emphasizes both rushing the quarterback and occasionally dropping into coverage. Sophomore Jordan Botelho will presumably back up Foskey, but behind him, Notre Dame may lack reassuring depth.
Recruiting: The All-American and the No. 15 weakside defensive end in the class of 2019 was the last Notre Dame player to declare his commitment on the February version of National Signing Day, but the reality was he had signed with the Irish in December. The consensus four-star prospect simply wanted to enjoy a ceremony with the rest of his high school teammates, when he publicly chose Notre Dame rather than Washington or Cal.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Foskey is launching his own clothing line featuring a logo focused on the last syllable of his name and a tagline utilizing his initials.

CAREER TO DATE
Foskey could have played throughout his freshman season, but the Irish insisted on preserving that year of eligibility while still playing him in their toughest games once he had proven himself in a pair of early-season blowouts. Thus, Foskey spent much of the midseason on the sidelines, remaining fresh to make an impact in the biggest of moments.

With Notre Dame trailing 17-7 at Stanford late in the second quarter, despite being favored by two touchdowns, Foskey broke through the line of scrimmage to block a punt that sparked the Irish to a halftime lead and an eventual win, Notre Dame’s first at The Farm since 2007.

2019: 4 games; 5 tackles, one blocked punt.

Then last season, Foskey remained behind an eventual NFL draft pick in Daelin Hayes — just as he was behind Julian Okwara and Hayes in 2019  — so despite his undeniable production, Foskey’s role remained complementary in nature.

2020: 12 games; 20 tackles with five for loss including 4.5 sacks and one pass defended.

QUOTES
Clearly, Foskey has always excelled at getting into an offense’s backfield, but new Irish defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman will also need the star junior to provide competent coverage in the defensive backfield.

Freeman’s ideal defense confuses offenses with varied looks up front, and to do such, someone has to be able to threaten multiple functions. That is the Vyper, that is Foskey.

But he has not spent much time in his life keeping up with a running back on a route, and learning to do such was the challenge for Foskey this offseason.

“With Marcus Freeman coming here, he made the Vypers into more of linebacker-defensive end type of position, so I’ve been working on a lot more drops and a lot more covering,” Foskey said in April. “… I’m just working on coverages, which is something new I have to do now, but I’m starting to like it a lot more.”

Foskey has learned first-hand how miserable the life of a cornerback can be.

“I always see corners doing it with chasing their head, staying with the man, it always looks easy when they do it, but when you actually go out there, it’s a little bit more challenging,” he said. “There’s just a little bit more stuff I have to work on, like getting hands on the guy when he’s about to break on a route, staying close to his hip, being more aggressive at the point of attack.”

But to be clear, Freeman has no doubt Foskey is capable of all that and much more.

“When I first got here, everyone said [Foskey] was the potential first-round pick of the future,” Freeman said. “He’s done a great job. He’s working at it.

“Foskey hasn’t played a whole bunch of football. That’s a point of emphasis that we continue to make. We need to continue to get his football intelligence up and get him reps and reps.”

2021 OUTLOOK
The added responsibilities of Foskey also speak to his possible impact. Notre Dame turned the Rover position into a schematic wrinkle the last few years, a player that could be either an extra defender at the line of scrimmage or far down the field in coverage depending on what the situation called for.

Freeman’s version of the Vyper will not be that multi-dimensional, but it will allow the Irish to adjust to offenses with nearly any personnel, and that will hinge on the player atop the depth chart at that end.

“We’re able to get in and out of different fronts more than we did a year ago, more than we did the last four years,” defensive line coach Mike Elston said. “The other cool thing is Isaiah Foskey, we can move him all over the field now. We can put him at our Vyper position, we can play him at the boundary end position, we can play him to the field, play him inside at three-technique.”

Becoming the proverbial straw that stirs the drink known as Notre Dame’s defensive front, Foskey may double his defensive snap count of 282 in 2020. He will certainly notch more than those 20 tackles, and could push toward double digits in sacks.

Yet, both he and Irish special teams coordinator Brian Polian expect Foskey to remain a headache for opposing punters.

DOWN THE ROAD
Foskey’s frame is already NFL ready. An all-around impressive 2021 could push him into the second round of next spring’s draft.

There would be ample reason to pursue that, but he could also see a legitimate chance of raising that draft profile into the first round with a second full season in a starring role.

Notre Dame would welcome Foskey back in 2022, particularly given the growing depth concerns at Vyper.

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. 91 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
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. 83 Jayden Thomas, freshman receiver, four-star prospect out of Georgia
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. 55 Kahanu Kia, freshman linebacker, Hawaiian, LDS member
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. 47 Jason Onye, incoming and raw 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. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 32 Prince Kollie, freshman linebacker, Butkus Award winner
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 29 Khari Gee, freshman safety, former LSU commit
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. 24 Audric Estime, freshman running back, former Michigan State commit, four-star
No. 23 Litchfield Ajavon, junior safety
No. 23 Kyren Williams, junior running back
No. 22 Logan Diggs, incoming freshman running back
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. 20 JoJo Johnson, freshman cornerback, former Cincinnati commit
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. 18 Chance Tucker, freshman cornerback
No. 17 Jack Coan, graduate quarterback, Wisconsin transfer
No. 17 Jordan Botelho, sophomore defensive end, full-speed at all times
No. 16 Deion Colzie, incoming freshman receiver with both speed and leaping height
No. 16 KJ Wallace, junior safety, possible starting nickel back
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 14 Kyle Hamilton, junior safety, preseason All-American, top 2022 draft prospect
No. 13 Paul Moala, senior linebacker coming off an Achilles injury
No. 13 Lawrence Keys, senior receiver
No. 12 Tyler Buchner, early-enrolled freshman quarterback, former four-star recruit
No. 12 DJ Brown, senior safety mired in a starting competition
No. 11 Ron Powlus III, early-enrolled freshman quarterback
No. 11 Ramon Henderson, sophomore cornerback with sprinter’s speed
No. 10 Drew Pyne, sophomore quarterback, likely No. 2
No. 10 Isaiah Pryor, graduate linebacker, 2020 Ohio State transfer
No. 7 Brendon Clark, junior quarterback with a knee worry

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