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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 7 Isaiah Foskey, defensive end on a record chase

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

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01: Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Spencer Sanders (3) is sacred by Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey (7) during 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-5, 260 pounds.2022-23 year, eligibility: A senior, Foskey has three seasons of eligibility remaining, but there should be absolutely no thought of him returning in 2023, barring injury.Depth Chart: Foskey will start for Notre Dame at Vyper end, the leader of a defense that will move around the defensive line to maximize his havoc-causing potential.Recruiting: An All-American and the No. 15 weakside defensive end in the class, per, Foskey chose the Irish over Washington and Cal. A northern California native, those finalists made sense and led to some public consternation when he did not publicly sign with Notre Dame in December of 2018. The reality was, he had signed, but he also wanted to enyoy a February moment with his high school teammates, thus keeping the official signing quiet for two months.

Foskey played in only four games as a freshman, somewhat surprising in retrospect simply because he has so developed. The Irish defensive line was plenty talented in 2019, so his minimal usage then makes sense still, but it is hard to think of Foskey stuck to the bench, nonetheless. Of course, he had his moments of impact, most notably blocking a punt at Stanford late in the second quarter, sparking a comeback from a 17-7 deficit.

In 2020, he began to flash what would come before long, and not just by blocking another punt and landing on it for a touchdown. He had four tackles in Notre Dame’s double-overtime upset of No. 1 Clemson, setting a career-high against the toughest competition.

He broke that career-high in the first game of 2021. The sheer force of his junior season is best encapsulated by the thoughts that his 11 sacks were the third-most in an Irish season and he finished tied for 11th in the country in sacks per game. Six of Notre Dame’s 13 forced fumbles came via Foskey’s hands, the most in the country. He forced two turnovers against Georgia Tech that both became defensive touchdowns.

2019: 4 games; 5 tackles.2020: 12 games; 20 tackles with five or loss including 4.5 sacks.2021: 13 games, 13 starts; 52 tackles with 12.5 for loss including 11 sacks and six forced fumbles.

While Foskey has a line of apparel, his name and image will most elicit some “Hangover” thoughts for the near future, as Foskey and junior All-American tight end Michael Mayer joined Irish head coach Marcus Freeman in unveiling the uniforms Notre Dame will wear against BYU on Oct. 8 in Las Vegas.

It is the stated goal of every team. Only a few can think of it genuinely, and even they do not usually say it outright all that often. Yet it was a common line from Irish veterans this past winter.

“I feel like this team can really win a national championship,” Foskey said in January as to why he returned to Notre Dame instead of heading to the NFL.

He was not the only returning player to cite that possibility as a factor. The repeated line indicated it was a common refrain from Freeman following the Fiesta Bowl faceplant, realistic or otherwise.

“He mentioned that this is going to be a team that can really win a national championship under him,” Foskey said. “But I already knew what our potential could be and what it will be at the end of the season.”

“The added responsibilities of Foskey also speak to his possible impact. Notre Dame turned the Rover position into a schematic wrinkle the last few years, a player that could be either an extra defender at the line of scrimmage or far down the field in coverage depending on what the situation called for.

“Freeman’s version of the Vyper will not be that multi-dimensional, but it will allow the Irish to adjust to offenses with nearly any personnel, and that will hinge on the player atop the depth chart at that end.

“‘We’re able to get in and out of different fronts more than we did a year ago, more than we did the last four years,’ defensive line coach Mike Elston said. ‘The other cool thing is Isaiah Foskey, we can move him all over the field now. We can put him at our Vyper position, we can play him at the boundary end position, we can play him to the field, play him inside at three-technique.’

“Becoming the proverbial straw that stirs the drink known as Notre Dame’s defensive front, Foskey may double his defensive snap count of 282 in 2020. He will certainly notch more than those 20 tackles, and could push toward double digits in sacks.

“Yet, both he and Irish special teams coordinator Brian Polian expect Foskey to remain a headache for opposing punters. …

“Foskey’s frame is already NFL ready. An all-around impressive 2021 could push him into the second round of next spring’s draft.

“There would be ample reason to pursue that, but he could also see a legitimate chance of raising that draft profile into the first round with a second full season in a starring role.

“Notre Dame would welcome Foskey back in 2022, particularly given the growing depth concerns at Vyper.”

Success should not be measured by records, but Foskey’s chase of Justin Tuck’s sack records (25 career; 13.5 in a season) will be monitored all season. He came within 2.5 of the season record last year, despite not knowing what the mark even was halfway in late October. He now needs what would be a modest season (9.5) to break Tuck’s career record.

Both should be expected, and if considering just those numbers, Foskey’s impact will be distinct. In the last five years in the NFL, when offenses suffered a sack on a possession, they found the end zone only 8 percent of the time.

For this thought process, assume that number translates to college football, as well. If Foskey records 14 sacks, presumably on 14 different possessions, he will essentially have single-handedly halted 13 drives.

That includes some generalizing, but the point holds up. A sack is not as lauded as a turnover because it is not as dramatic and does not immediately boost field position by more than 10 yards, but its broader end result is much the same as a turnover.

Foskey will almost certainly be an Irish captain. He may crack 60 tackles as a defensive end. To put that into context, the next-highest defensive end tackle total at Notre Dame in the last five seasons was Khalid Kareem’s 46 in 2019. Forcing fumbles and interceptions will again be an underrated part of Foskey’s impact. But his sacks will be the metric that best measures his final collegiate season.

RELATED READING: Foskey’s senior season at Notre Dame will be measured by highest of expectations

Foskey received a third-round grade in draft evaluations in the winter, the NFL looking for more consistency from him week-in and week-out. Delivering that could turn Foskey into a first-round pick in 2023.

Along with Mayer, it makes sense why they were the two players starring in that uniform reveal, if not also for their acting chops.

RELATED READING: Isaiah Foskey sets sights on earning first-round draft pick

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. 12 Jordan Botelho, a defensive end-turned-linebacker
No. 11 Ron Powlus III, sophomore QB providing steadiness to a chaotic room
No. 11 Ramon Henderson, junior cornerback-turned-safety
No. 10 Drew Pyne, junior quarterback
No. 10 Prince Kollie, sophomore linebacker, high school Butkus Award winner
No. 9 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL
No. 9 Justin Ademilola, fifth-year defensive end, a backup in name only
No. 8 Marist Liufau, senior linebacker returning from a dislocated ankle
No. 7 Audric Estime, sophomore running back, No. 2 on the shortened depth chart

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