Listed measurements: 6-foot-5, 289 pounds.
2022-23 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Onye has all four seasons of eligibility remaining after not appearing in a game in 2021.
Depth Chart: Onye will provide depth somewhere on Notre Dame’s defensive interior, either the third option at three-technique tackle behind fifth-year Jayson Ademilola and senior Howard Cross or the fourth-stringer at nose tackle behind senior Jacob Lacey, Harvard transfer Chris Smith and sophomore Gabriel Rubio.
Recruiting: Recruits from Rhode Island rarely draw much attention, especially ones who barely played in high school, but the consensus three-star and No. 43 defensive end in the class, per rivals.com, still earned offers from Michigan, Penn State and Virginia Tech, among others.
In fact, to drive home that point in anecdotal fashion, rivals.com does not even tally a ranking of Rhode Island recruits each cycle, because so few draw interest.
CAREER TO DATE
Onye did not take the field on a Saturday in the fall of 2021.
Onye moved to the interior from “Big” end at some point in the last year, the timing somewhat vague simply because he was hardly a topic of conversation at any point in the last 12 months. That said, it was not an entirely unexpected move, given then-defensive line coach Mike Elston’s comments when Onye joined the Irish.
“Jason is going to be a Big end for us,” Elston said in February of 2021. “Right now he’s 275-280 pounds. He’s going to be a huge end, as we call it right now. He gives us some good position flexibility.
“Maybe he goes in and plays some three-technique.”
NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Every player on Notre Dame’s roster already owns a suit, a uniformity that hints at team issuance. It is only a matter of time before some clothing sponsor signs the entire roster to an NIL deal that allows it to trumpet a claim to those fits.
WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“Onye will take some to develop, an assumption supported by a number of facts. The first of those is a Notre Dame luxury: The Irish have plenty of defensive line talent, experience and depth.
“The rest apply to Onye more specifically. Rhode Island is not known for its football talent. That is less a knock on Onye and more an acknowledgment that he will need to adjust to the collegiate talent level even more than most freshmen.
“Furthermore, Onye injured his foot during his senior basketball season, which then cost him Rhode Island’s spring football season. He has not played a competitive snap in nearly two full years, and even then, Onye was raw, playing only one full season of high school football.
“He already has the size needed to compete at the next level, but development as a whole awaits Onye, development that will be his focus in 2021. It may be such an emphasis that he does not even appear in a blowout of Toledo. …
“Onye’s career will be curious to watch unfold. Wherever he currently is between 245 and 280, he is already big. If he adds much weight, he will inevitably move inside to three-technique. If, however, he can maintain length as his primary attribute, then a long-term development could be in store.”
Depth matters at defensive line. Onye growing into his weight gain — recruiting services listed him at only 245 when he signed with Notre Dame in December of 2020 — should give the Irish a touch more depth than it needs, a luxury new defensive line coach Al Washington will jump at.
Consider three-technique tackle. Ademilola is on the verge of stardom, and that may be the only thing that keeps Cross from 40 tackles himself. Onye has no chance of cracking that two-deep, barring injury.
But in a blowout of Marsall or, actually even more likely, Cal in September, Washington would relish the chance to spare Ademilola and Cross fourth-quarter snaps. Giving Onye that experience would serve both the purpose of keeping the veterans’ legs fresher and of giving him a chance to prove himself at his new, albeit always somewhat presumed, position.
DOWN THE ROAD
Onye is raw. He simply has not played enough football. The second-generation Nigerian immigrant lost a crucial season of development to the pandemic, and then he did not play any competitive snaps in 2021, either.
Give him time.
His size and length makes Onye an ideal defensive line prospect. With Ademilola onto the NFL after this season, Cross should start at three-technique tackle next year. Onye will compete with early-enrolled freshman Tyson Ford to serve as Cross’ primary backup, though both should see added playing time.
Notre Dame expected a longer timeline when it signed Onye. Neither the length of the timeline nor the eventually expected payoff has changed.
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. 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
No. 58 Ashton Craig, incoming freshman center
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery
No. 56 Joey Tanona, early-enrolled offensive guard coming off a concussion
No. 56 Howard Cross, senior defensive tackle with heavy hands, and that’s a good thing
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year offensive lineman, three-year starting center, captain
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, senior defensive tackle, now lighter and a starter
No. 54 Blake Fisher, sophomore starting right tackle, ‘ginormous’
No. 52 Zeke Correll, senior center or perhaps left guard
No. 52 Bo Bauer, fifth-year linebacker, Ironman
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, sophomore offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, sophomore end-turned-linebacker
No. 41 Donovan Hinish, incoming freshman defensive tackle, Kurt’s brother
No. 9 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL