Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery

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Listed measurements: 6-foot-3, 280 pounds.
2022-23 year, eligibility: A fifth-year veteran, Ademilola has one season of eligibility remaining, one granted only by the universal pandemic eligibility waiver.
Depth Chart: Ademilola will start for the Irish at three-technique tackle for a second straight season after starting all 13 games there last year. Senior Howard Cross will demand a fair share of playing time, as well.
Recruiting: The No. 13 defensive tackle in his class, per rivals.com, Ademilola could have gone anywhere he wanted. Of particular note in retrospect, Georgia chased Ademilola as it put together last year’s generational defense. A consensus four-star prospect and U.S. Army All-American, Ademilola also pondered Michigan, Alabama and Ohio State.

CAREER TO DATE
Ademilola has been a contributor since he arrived at Notre Dame, though that was partly a nod to the Irish lack of depth on the defensive interior back in 2018, especially once Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa broke his foot in the first game of the season. Ademilola took over as a starter in 2021 when Tagovailoa-Amosa moved out to “Big” end, a decision made knowing Ademilola was ready to be a starter. Frankly, he could have started in 2020 if not limited a bit by a slight meniscus tear.

Similarly, a shoulder injury plagued Ademilola much of 2021, something he played through with little ill effect.

2018: 12 games; 19 tackles with 1.5 for loss including half a sack.
2019: 11 games; 25 tackles with four for loss.
2020: 8 games, 3 starts; 11 tackles with 1.5 for loss including half a sack.
2021: 13 games, 13 starts; 49 tackles with eight for loss including 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Ademilola and his twin brother, end Justin, were quick to capitalize on NIL rights last year, managing to do so in understandable ways before delving into the uncertainty of NFTs.

QUOTES
Ademilola reportedly received a “return to school” grade when he sought an NFL draft evaluation, though all that really means is he would have likely been a day-three pick. There was still an NFL opportunity available to him if he wanted it. Instead, he opted for a fifth season, a choice coming between the promotion of Marcus Freeman as Notre Dame’s head coach and the abrupt departure of defensive line coach Mike Elston for Michigan.

More pertinent than those coaching changes, Ademilola timed his announcement in short order with twin Justin and senior Vyper end Isaiah Foskey. Bringing all three back to lead a line — a line that unquestionably has other threats in junior Big end Rylie Mills and senior nose tackle Jacob Lacey, among others — gives the Irish one of the best defensive lines in the country in 2022.

“The decision to return with my brother and Isaiah to come back was great,” Ademilola said in January. “The excitement I have for next season is at an all-time high, just knowing the guys in the room, we love to go at it. We love to get after the football, we love the game. These are my brothers that I’ve been with the whole time, and being with the guys in the room and all of us learning off each other, we can’t wait to start up again.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“Forecasting a defensive tackle’s stat line is a treacherous task, as a successful defensive tackle often creates more opportunities for linebackers and defensive ends than for himself. That said, aside from broad defensive success, one area to look at to discern Ademilola’s effectiveness in 2021 will be his sack count.

“Whether it be by benefiting from group sacks or by getting into the backfield on his own, a starting defensive tackle should make at least a few sacks throughout a season, if not five or six. Given Ademilola’s long-established pass-rush abilities, that latter range would be more fitting.

“He may well have a productive season and make only one sack. If Freeman’s defense is successful, Ademilola will have much to do with it, simply via the nature of his position. But a dominant defensive tackle gets to the quarterback, something Ademilola has not yet done, nor necessarily had the ample chance to do. …

“A fifth season was never expected from a defensive tackle recruited as heavily as Ademilola was, but that may become the case.

“If he plays well enough in 2021 to earn a second- or third-round draft grade, Ademilola should head to the NFL. Football lifespans are too short to try to turn that into a first-round grade when a paycheck and a chance to prove himself at the highest level await. But anything lower than the third round and Notre Dame would gladly welcome back an established starting defensive tackle, both for his abilities and the depth his return would create.

“There are some 2022 possibilities created only by the universal pandemic eligibility waiver that will be meaningless in South Bend; maybe those players transfer and capitalize elsewhere, but the Irish will not compound their roster construction to exhaust those careers. Ademilola is not one of those players.

“Notre Dame will take every snap he can give, but that should not come at the young man’s expense.”

2022 OUTLOOK
The thought that Ademilola amassed 49 tackles with eight behind the line of scrimmage last season while injured for some of it is a thought that should terrify Irish opponents in 2022. He has not looked to make an excuse of it, but his shoulder injury was enough of a concern that surgery soon after the Fiesta Bowl kept Ademilola out of all of spring practices.

“This kind of happened in the beginning of the season,” he said in January with his arm in a sling. “It didn’t slow me down from playing throughout the whole season. It was something that toward the end of the season, I knew I could get it cleaned up if I chose to, and I decided to get my shoulder cleaned up so I can move forward and be an elite player starting next season.”

Take Ademilola at his word that the shoulder was never an issue on Saturdays, and his 49 tackles should be viewed as a baseline in 2022. Read between the lines of what he said and realize he somewhat thinks that shoulder injury kept him from being “elite” next season. If that veiled modesty acknowledges such a truth, Ademilola could have a truly dominant 2022.

The combination of him and likely first-round draft pick Foskey will terrorize opposing quarterbacks. Foskey will get the headlines as he once again chases Justin Tuck’s school record for sacks in a season (and in career), but Ademilola may prove just as disruptive.

If he has 40-plus tackles once again and manages a few more sacks, then Notre Dame’s defensive line will surely be as dangerous as advertised, the foundation on which new defensive coordinator Al Golden will build his entire attack. Frankly, this will be the best unit on the Irish roster in 2022, and thus it may determine just how good Notre Dame can be.

RELATED READING: Jayson Ademilola joins brother in return to Notre Dame in 2022, burgeoning Irish DL depth and experience

DOWN THE ROAD
Barring further injury — and a slight meniscus tear bears no correlation to a bothersome shoulder, so no one should label Ademilola as “injury-prone” — Ademilola should hear his name in next year’s draft. His 2022 will very much determine how early.

A season with half a dozen sacks and undeniable explosiveness could move him into the second day. A season merely as good as 2021 would likely keep Ademilola in the fourth- or fifth-round. But either way, he has long shown he is a strong starter on a top-10 program in the country. That pedigree alone warrants drafting.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end

No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 89 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77* Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man
No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’
No. 65* Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer
No. 59* Aamil Wagner, consensus four-star incoming freshman offensive tackle

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