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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 18 Nana Osafo-Mensah, junior defensive end

Nana Osafo-Mensah


Listed measurements: 6-foot-3 ⅛, 249 pounds.2021-22 year, eligibility: A junior, Osafo-Mensah’s eligibility clock has not yet started ticking, leaving him with four seasons remaining if so wanted.
Depth Chart: Fifth-year Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa’s move to “Big” end from defensive tackle knocks Osafo-Mensah down to third on the depth chart, with senior Justin Ademilola fitting in between the two hyphens.Recruiting: The consensus four-star prospect and All-American, Osafo-Mensah chose Notre Dame over his homestate Texas. rated him the No. 9 defensive end in the class and No. 200 recruit overall upon his signing, though a poor showing at the All-American Bowl dropped that positional ranking to No. 23 and the national slotting off the board. Consider those drastic movements a ripe example of the reactionary nature of recruiting rankings.

Video games and performance drinks, what else does a college athlete need? Osafo-Mensah now makes money off both.

An early enrollee in 2019, Osafo-Mensah saw the field in a pair of 52-point blowouts, making one tackle against New Mexico, as a freshman before a knee injury last August cost him the 2020 season.

Osafo-Mensah’s rehab progressed quickly enough to practice in December, but he missed the entire season, all the same.

Thanks to that knee injury, all anyone outside the program can do is speculate about Osafo-Mensah’s near- and long-term futures, but within the program, the comparisons are complimentary.

“Nana has done a nice job for us,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in late April. “[Defensive line coach Mike] Elston is cross-training him at both the defensive tackle and the defensive end positions, as a big-bodied guy. He’s done a really nice job in the weight room, he’s physically strong.

“He has some Khalid Kareem traits to him in terms of pass rush and physicality. He’s had a really good spring for us.”

A Kareem comparison can go beyond Osafo-Mensah’s large frame and possible positional versatility. Kareem had to wait to get his chance at a starting role, as well, only coming his junior season. Osafo-Mensah will not get that opportunity this year, but he may finally see a moment to contribute.

Elston insists on rotating vast portions of his defensive line, sometimes swapping out the entire line. Going three-deep at the Big end position will aid that cause, and presuming health, Osafo-Mensah should be up to that task, at the absolute least.

Recruited partly because of his quickness, an agility that has shown itself in practices the last two years when Osafo-Mensah has able to practice, he could benefit from being third on that depth chart. If offensive linemen are worn down by Tagovailoa-Amosa and Ademilola, while the third defensive end is not only similarly potent but also fresh, then Osafo-Mensah may find himself in the opponent’s backfield a few times.

A few tackles for loss would resonate more than a dozen total tackles would, setting up Osafo-Mensah to further impress in 2022.

DOWN THE ROADEvery expectation suggests Tagovailoa-Amosa will try his hand at the NFL next year despite having eligibility remaining thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver. That will leave Ademilola and Osafo-Mensah to compete.

The greatest likelihood is they split time with Ademilola the nominal starter, but Elston will not insist on that if Osafo-Mensah performs better than his counterpart. Given how little has been seen of Osafo-Mensah — it should be reminded, he was a significant recruit — playing his way into starting duties in 2022 and 2023 is within the realm of possibility.

Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception
No. 38 Jason Onye, incoming and raw freshman defensive end
No. 37 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
No. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, senior cornerback, possible nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker
No. 26 Clarence Lewis, sophomore cornerback, second-year starter
No. 25 Philip Riley, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, speedy sophomore running back
No. 24 Jack Kiser, junior linebacker, onetime pandemic hero
No. 23 Litchfield Ajavon, junior safety
No. 23 Kyren Williams, junior running back
No. 22 Logan Diggs, incoming freshman running back
No. 22 Chance Tucker, freshman cornerback
No. 21 Lorenzo Styles, early-enrolled freshman receiver
No. 21 Caleb Offord, sophomore cornerback
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, senior running back, coming off an offseason with a smirch
No. 20 Justin Walters, early-enrolled freshman safety and likely early special teams contributor
No. 19 Jay Bramblett, junior punter
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, senior defensive end
No. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr., senior receiver, team favorite

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