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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 90 Brenan Vernon, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit

Listed measurements: 6-foot-5, 259 pounds
2023-24 year, eligibility: An incoming freshman, Vernon has all four seasons of eligibility remaining.Depth Chart: Alexander Ehrensberger’s retirement from football to head back to Germany to start his career in the medical profession could have elevated Vernon into the three-deep at “Big” end. “Three-deep” may not be a typical term, but along the defensive line, it carries pertinence.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect and the No. 8 strongside defensive end in the class of 2023, per, Vernon committed to Notre Dame nearly 18 months before he could actually sign with the Irish. An All-American, he never wavered from that commitment, not even when homestate power Ohio State came calling. Particularly along the defensive line, that is not a recruiting battle Notre Dame wins all that often.

This space fails to acknowledge frequently enough how much Notre Dame’s coaching staff emphasizes length in its recruits. Marcus Freeman and Co. value it across the board and especially along the defensive line.

“[Vernon] brings physical assets,” Irish defensive coordinator Al Golden said in December. “He’s strong, he’s tough, he’s a competitor.”

Freeman specifically brought up length.

“You look at the ends, you look at [Boubacar Traore], you look at Brenan Vernon, we need length,” Freeman said. “That’s something we’re looking for. You would like length at every position on your team.”

The youths call this “drip.”

“Vernon’s size and length alone should make him a contributor in his career. If that is his floor, that is quite a recruiting haul. …

“The Irish defensive line is not quite as deep as it has been in recent years, certainly not if Justin Ademilola opts against a sixth season. If he returns, Vernon may be no higher than third on the depth chart, but if Ademilola takes his chances in the NFL draft, a strong preseason could push Vernon into the two-deep.”

The December thought of Vernon cracking Notre Dame’s two-deep if Justin Ademilola declared for the NFL, which he did, came before the Irish brought in Ohio State transfer Javontae Jean-Baptiste. Between him and fifth-year Nana Osafo-Mensah, Notre Dame should have its one-two punch for this season.

But no genuine college football program can have enough contributing defensive linemen in 2023. The Irish went three-deep at “Big” end in 2022, with Osafo-Mensah as the third, making 14 tackles with one for loss and another two quarterback hurries. The same could be said in 2021, again Osafo-Mensah, making 13 tackles with 2.5 for loss including two sacks and two more quarterback hurries.

Vernon should be competing with sophomore Aiden Gobaira for that honor in 2023. Obviously, Gobaira has an inherent edge due to being in a collegiate strength and conditioning program for an additional 18 months, but Vernon is already bigger than Gobaira.

If Vernon impresses upon arrival on campus — and, this is no small thing, avoids hitting a freshman wall at the end of preseason practices as so many young players do — he should get a chance in September. Well, September or August, as Navy should fit into this conversation. (101 days, by the way.)

The length Notre Dame seeks in defensive linemen often turns into ends growing into tackles. It may be a surprise if that does not happen to Vernon in 2024 or 2025.

Regardless of his position, someone likely will stand between Vernon and a starting role next year. Only Jean-Baptiste will be out of eligibility following the 2024 season, and while the Irish may not welcome back Jordan Botelho and Rylie Mills as fifth-years and/or Howard Cross and Osafo-Mensah as sixth-years, some of them should return. Then there is the rest of the current two-deep, namely current sophomore Junior Tuihalamaka, junior Jason Onye and junior Gabe Rubio.

That said, Vernon’s recruiting profile and sheer size suggest he could force his way into that mix next season. Any flashes this fall would underscore that likelihood.

WHY NO. 90?
Editor’s Note: The original version of this story was published before Notre Dame announced Vernon will wear No. 17 this season. That version guessed at his jersey number.
Vernon wore No. 47 in high school before donning No. 9 in the All-American Game. Onye wears No. 47 currently, ruling out that possibility, and both Vernon and incoming freshman defensive tackle Armel Mukam also wore No. 9 in high school. While it is quite possible neither wears No. 9, or No. 90, only one of them could be assigned it in this hypothetical, and for no reason whatsoever, Mukam received it on the running content calendar.

The value of penciling in Vernon at No. 90 is the same can be done for fellow incoming freshman end Boubacar Traore, who will pop up in this space tomorrow. As classmates at the same position, there is easy added context gained by discussing them back-to-back.

The summer countdown begins anew, Rylie Mills to Deion Colzie
No. 99 Rylie Mills, senior defensive tackle, moving back inside from end
No. 98 Devan Houstan, early-enrolled four-star defensive tackle
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, junior defensive tackle, one of three Irish DTs with notable experience
No. 95 Tyson Ford, sophomore defensive tackle, up 30 pounds from a year ago
No. 93 Armel Mukam, incoming freshman defensive end, former Stanford commit
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a senior defensive tackle now ‘fully healthy’ after a 2022 torn ACL
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, sophomore defensive end, former four-star recruit
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, the next starter at ‘TE U’
No. 87 Cooper Flanagan, incoming freshman tight end, four-star recruit
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, senior tight end coming off a torn ACL
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, junior receiver, probable No. 1 target in 2023
No. 79 Tosh Baker, senior tackle, again a backup but next year ...
No. 78 Pat Coogan, junior interior offensive lineman
No. 77 Ty Chan, sophomore offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, first-team All-American left tackle
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, sophomore left guard, likely starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, fifth-year right guard, likely starter
No. 72 Sam Pendelton, early-enrolled freshman offensive lineman
No. 70 Ashton Craig, sophomore interior offensive lineman
No. 68 Michael Carmody, senior offensive lineman
No. 56 Charles Jagusah, incoming freshman offensive lineman, four-star recruit
No. 55 Chris Terek, incoming freshman offensive lineman, four-star recruit
No. 51 Boubacar Traore, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 17 Brenan Vernon, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 13 Holden Staes, sophomore tight end, up 20 pounds in a year
No. 12 Penn State RB transfer Devyn Ford gives Notre Dame newly-needed backfield depth, experience
No. 4 Rhode Island transfer safety Antonio Carter gives Notre Dame desperately needed backline depth

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