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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 12 Jordan Botelho, a defensive end-turned-linebacker

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Oklahoma State v Notre Dame

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01: Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman greets Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Jordan Botelho (12) before the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl college football bowl game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Oklahoma State Cowboys on January 1, 2022 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Listed measurements: 6-foot-2 ½, 245 pounds.2022-23 year, eligibility: A junior, Botelho has three seasons of eligibility remaining thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver rendering his debut season a mulligan for these purposes.Depth Chart: Botelho spent much of the spring working at Rover (increasingly referred to as the Sniper) rather than at defensive end. That was at least in part because senior Isaiah Foskey and fifth-year Justin Ademilola create quite the tandem at Vyper end, but Botelho is still too dynamic to not get onto the field somewhere. At Rover, he likely backs up senior Jack Kiser, subbing in for Kiser in specific situations, perhaps against jumbo packages and on certain third-and-longs.Recruiting: An All-American and consensus four-star, Botelho made an early decision in picking Notre Dame over public frontrunner Washington. The No. 11 inside linebacker and No. 176 overall prospect in the class, per, Botelho ended up not playing in the All-American Bowl due to an October 2019 incident highlighted by some punches thrown outside of a volleyball state championship. The Irish stuck by Botelho’s scholarship in that moment, something that cannot always be assumed in such situations.

Few players on Notre Dame’s roster have been discussed as much with as little production to follow as Botelho. That is as much a commentary on the public echo chamber as it is on Botelho’s career, if not more so.

He took 18 defensive snaps in 2020, making his biggest contributions on special teams, including two disrupted punts against South Florida.

Botelho took 126 snaps in 2021, still not a defensive regular and perhaps most notable against Stanford as the Irish leaned into a bigger defensive package to combat the Cardinal’s offensive size. He made four tackles against Stanford, the third game in a row in which he made four tackles, but then logged only one in the Fiesta Bowl.

That yo-yo nature has been the most consistent part of Botelho’s early career. An early enrollee in 2020, the pandemic cost him the expected advantages of that arrival. When the football team returned to campus that June, Botelho was soon sent home by the coaching staff for a collection of frustrations. In time, he opted to return and fight through that adversity, a credit to him, but the entire situation encapsulates what about Botelho has led to so much consternation from the outside.

RELATED READING: Notre Dame’s holistic approach felt by Jordan Botelho

2020: 10 games; 4 tackles.2021: 11 games, 1 start; 18 tackles with three for loss including two sacks.


New defensive coordinators tend to say similar things about Botelho. Consider Marcus Freeman last year:

“The thing with Jordan is you have to try to control his emotion. He’s an emotional guy. The same things that make you love him, the emotion he plays with, are the same things you’ve got to make sure you keep under control.”

And now consider new Irish defensive coordinator Al Golden this spring:

“We’ve just got to get him to play with a little more poise. He wants to chase, chase, chase and do all that. He’s just got to relax a little bit and let his natural talent come out. … I really like his progress. I’m going to keep working with him to try to get him to slow down a little bit and then let him speed his game up because he’s playing with more poise.”

“Botelho will disrupt opposing defenses this season — as well as their punters, but that will no longer be his greatest effect. Foskey remains the better defensive end, but with Freeman utilizing the Vyper end in coverage, as well, Botelho’s skill set may be more applicable than the usual back up’s.

“A season with 150-200 defensive snaps, a handful of tackles for loss and a few sacks should be the bare minimum for Botelho. Add in a few pass breakups and that will be a clear sign that Freeman’s multiple-front scheme is confounding opposing quarterbacks as designed.”

More of a role. If measuring by snap count — a faulty metric in that one can expect the Irish offense to work a bit slower in 2022 due to its lack of healthy skill position players, and in effect reduce the total plays in a game — then cracking the 200 mark will mean Botelho is firmly in the defensive rotation, not just a piece on a game-by-game basis.

Botelho playing as the fourth linebacker against Wisconsin and Stanford last season may have been the indicator of what is to come. Notre Dame trusts his physicality against almost anyone, but his speed allows him to work on the defensive second level. That role could be trotted out again in October against BYU and Stanford.

But if that is it, Botelho will not make enough of an impact in 2022 to engender future optimism.

Kiser will be the primary Rover for the Irish. His knack for finding the ball is too enjoyable to think Botelho’s dynamism will trump it. But Botelho is more physical than Kiser.

The fact that Botelho’s physicality is the item repeatedly mentioned here can be taken as a sign of lazy writing or as an intended emphasis. It is the piece that sets him apart, in both good ways and bad. If Golden and Notre Dame find literal and figurative methods to routinely harness it, the defense could find a wrinkle that opposing offenses have no way around. If not, Botelho may peak in early October and be an afterthought by the season’s end in Los Angeles.

Botelho is not too small to work at Vyper end, and when Foskey and Ademilola depart after this season, he may move back up to that initial position. His speed makes the Rover fit understandable, but his innate desire to put his head down and charge forward obviously fits better at defensive end.

This is a larger pondering than Golden will want to consider in-season, but it will absolutely determine Botelho’s trajectory entering 2023. Kiser will still be Notre Dame’s starting Rover, so the most playing time will be available if the Hawaiian can become the starting Vyper.

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. 85 Holden Staes, incoming freshman tight end
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. 47 Jason Oyne, sophomore defensive end-turned-tackle
No. 44 Junior Tuihalamaka, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, consensus four-star recruit
No. 44 Alex Peitsch, junior long snapper
No. 42 Nolan Ziegler, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Irish legacy
No. 41 Donovan Hinish, incoming freshman defensive tackle, Kurt’s brother
No. 40 Joshua Burnham, early-enrolled freshman linebacker-turned-end
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, senior Vyper end coming off an Achilles injury
No. 31 NaNa Osafo-Mensah, senior defensive end
No. 29 Matt Salerno, fifth-year receiver, punt returner, former walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, fifth-year starting nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, senior linebacker recovering from a plaguing wrist injury
No. 25 Philip Riley, sophomore cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, junior running back, possible Irish bellcow
No. 24 Jack Kiser, senior linebacker, second-year starter
No. 23 Jayden Bellamy, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 22 Justin Walters, sophomore safety
No. 22 Logan Diggs, sophomore running back with a shoulder injury
No. 21 Jaden Mickey, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 20 Jadarian Price, early-enrolled freshman running back with a ruptured Achilles
No. 20 Benjamin Morrison, freshman cornerback
No. 18 Chance Tucker, sophomore cornerback
No. 18 Steve Angeli, freshman QB, Blue-Gold Game star
No. 17 Jaylen Sneed, early-enrolled linebacker, Rover of the future
No. 16 Brandon Joseph, Northwestern transfer, preseason All-American, starting safety
No. 16 Deion Colzie, sophomore receiver
No. 15 Tobias Merriweather, freshman receiver, forever a memorable recruitment
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, sophomore cornerback
No. 14 Bryce McFerson, freshman punter facing a Harvard challenge
No. 13 Gi’Bran Payne, freshman running back, late recruit
No. 12 Tyler Buchner, sophomore starting QB
No. 9 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL

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