Incoming defensive lineman Isaac Rochell is a lot of things on the football field. But what might make him one of the more interesting recruits in this class is what he isn’t: Drama.
Rochell’s recruitment was one of the quietest for a high profile player in recent memory. In an era where just about every elite defensive lineman turns into a recruiting battle until the end, Rochell’s eventual signing with the Irish had so few twists and turns that most Irish fans might be taking Rochell for granted.
While thousands of words and millions of worries were dedicated to Eddie Vanderdoes, Rochell will walk onto campus as one of the top prospects in the country along the defensive line that nobody seems to be talking about. He’s a big, strong and powerful defensive lineman playing a position that the Irish need to replenish, and is another recruiting victory that Brian Kelly and staff had over SEC powers, with the help of young assistant Scott Booker.
Let’s take a closer look at Isaac Rochell.
In just about every other recruiting class, Rochell is the type of guy that would have Irish fans jumping for joy. An elite defensive line recruit with offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan and a few dozen other programs, Rochelle has the type of upside that has Kelly and his coaching staff very excited.
“He’s going to play on the defensive line, and he’s going to impact this program,” Kelly said. “I think he’s got a huge upside, and we’re really excited about getting a player of this caliber here to Notre Dame.”
Rochelle was a consensus Top 125 player across the board for just about every recruiting service.
EARLY PLAYING TIME OPPORTUNITIES
With the injury to Chase Hounshell and the departure of Eddie Vanderdoes, Rochell has the chance to make an early dent in the depth chart. Looking at this season, behind the locked in starting three of Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix and Sheldon Day, where Rochell slots in among guys like Tony Springmann, Justin Utupo and Jarron Jones will be interesting to watch.
While we’ve heard nice things about fifth year player Tyler Stockton, he might be a rotational player at the nose with Kona Schwenke. Likewise, a guy like Utuopo might have been just a flash in spring practice, but might never be heard from again. That said, expecting numbers out of Rochell that exceed what Day did last year as a true freshman is probably asking too much, especially considering Day had a spring semester to prepare him for college football.
Like the offensive line last season, the Irish defense up front might be caught in a talented-but-thin predicament and a talented guy like Rochell could be the beneficiary.
PROJECTING THE FUTURE
With an offer list like the one Rochell possesses and a size and skillset that this staff covets, it’s not hard to think big things are in Rochell’s future. (Tight end coach Scott Booker, who led the charge for Rochell, believes he’s athletic enough to play tight end for the Irish.) That said, the timing of Rochell’s breakthrough will likely correspond with the departure of Stephon Tuitt.
Still, the Irish depend on a solid rotation of players in the front seven to power the defense and a guy like Rochell might find his way into that rotation the day he steps foot on campus. After one or two seasons behind Tuitt, Rochell could work his way into becoming a two year starter -- or three if he’s able to redshirt this season.
In a defense like the Irish’s, finding athletes like Rochell are essential to the overall health of the defense. With the chance to develop and learn behind one of the country’s elite defensive lines, Rochell should be a future staple of front sevens to come.