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Isaiah Foskey heads to NFL, joining Michael Mayer in opting out of Notre Dame’s Gator Bowl appearance

Notre Dame’s career leader in sacks will not take another run at the single-season record, with senior defensive end Isaiah Foskey announcing Thursday he will head to the NFL and skip the No. 21 Irish appearance in the Gator Bowl (Dec. 30; 3:30 ET; ABC) against No. 19 South Carolina.

The All-American finishes his Notre Dame career with 26.5 sacks, breaking Justin Tuck’s record of 24.5 sacks, set nearly 20 years ago.

When Foskey returned for the 2022 season, his stated goals were to win a national championship and break Tuck’s single-season record. He never quite got the steam to chase that latter mark of 13.5, finishing with 11 for a second consecutive season.

A cynic might point out Tuck played in fewer games than Foskey, but both red-shirted their freshman seasons, Foskey’s was simply allowed to include four games, nominal appearances for him as he made five tackles. Across the three seasons of genuine action, Foskey outpaced Tuck, he just didn’t have as dominant a single season in the process. On a per-game basis in those three years, Foskey recorded 0.72 sacks per game, ahead of Tuck’s 0.68.

Foskey ends his career with 122 tackles, including 31.5 for loss. He led the country in 2021 with an astounding six forced fumbles, adding one more in 2022.

Without Foskey against the Gamecocks, fifth-year Justin Ademilola may get a starting nod, a precursor to his 2023 role if he opts to return for one more season. Senior Nana Osafo-Mensah could also start, also a possible foreshadowing of 2023’s defensive front.

There may be some mild concern about future depth along the defensive line, but the Irish have always expected Foskey to move along after this season. Frankly, his 2022 return was considered uncertain on its own. There is plenty of talent in Notre Dame’s defensive-line room, arguably the most-talented position group on the roster, but it is admittedly inexperienced.

A transfer portal addition or two could help that, along the lines of defensive tackle Chris Smith from Harvard this season.

Foskey may not have dominated enough this season to turn himself into a first-round draft pick, but he should be a lock to go on day two.

The last Irish defensive end drafted was Ade Ogundeji in the fifth round in 2021, only 11 picks after Daelin Hayes. The last one drafted as high as the second round was Stephon Tuitt with the No. 46 overall pick in 2014.

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