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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 30 Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, junior linebacker


Listed Measurements: 6-foot-1 ½, 215 pounds.2019-20 year, eligibility: A junior, Owusu-Koramoah has three seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.Depth chart: Owusu-Koramoah will have his work cut out for him in the preseason if he wants to hold off sophomore Paul Moala for starting Rover honors.Recruiting: The consensus three-star prospect de-committed from Virginia in January and then chose Notre Dame over Michigan State on National Signing Day — memorably literally interrupting Irish head coach Brian Kelly’s press conference with a phone call. The late flip put Owusu-Koramoah amongst the half dozen recruits Notre Dame found late in the 2017 cycle to shore up its class after the 4-8 debacle.

After preserving a year of eligibility as a freshman in 2017, Owusu-Koramoah was looking at a season of special teams work while backing up Asmar Bilal at Rover before Owusu-Koramoah broke his foot in practice after two games. The injury knocked him out for the year without so much as a single tackle.

Of names expected to be recited in tandem, Owusu-Koramoah and Moala was not among them. One was recruited specifically for the Rover position (Owusu-Koramoah), while the other moved up this spring from safety. One had a dramatic recruitment; the other is from the city next door in Mishawaka, Ind. Yet by the end of spring practice, both had laid a claim to the starting Rover position.

Consider just the spring finale, the Blue-Gold Game. Moala led the defense with nine tackles including two sacks. Owusu-Koramoah was next on the stat sheet with seven tackles. Both were made available to the media afterward for interviews.

Even earlier in the spring, Irish head coach Brian Kelly hardly mentioned one without thinking of the other.

“[Owusu-Koramoah] has always been an explosive player,” Kelly said in mid-March. “It’s always just been working on the other things, assignment-correct. He gets a little bit out of his lane here and there. We think we’ve got a good complement to him with Paul out there. Paul is very assignment-correct. They’re a good balance.

“Jeremiah continues to learn the position. He’s explosive. He makes plays, but we’ve got to get him to continue to learn the position, too.”

“He was recruited for the role of Rover, unlike either Bilal or (Isaiah) Robertson. In Lea’s system, hardly changed from former Irish defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s, the Rover is counted on to match up against both physical tight ends and shifty slot receivers while still offering a viable pass rush. In other words, a high school safety who likes playing at the line of scrimmage is an ideal candidate … such as Owusu-Koramoah.

“Notre Dame would probably prefer Bilal emerge as Tranquill’s successor, but if he missteps, Owusu-Koramoah is more likely to get an extended look than Robertson is, with the exception of against exceptionally pass-happy teams (see: Wake Forest and sophomore receiver Greg Dortch).

“Even if not at Rover, Owusu-Koramoah should be a lock for special teams this season.”

This would be easier to do if taking Owusu-Koramoah and Moala together, but that’s not the intent of the exercise. The former has spent two years at Rover; Moala made the move only this spring, and only when sophomore Shayne Simon moved to an interior position. These are facts, and they suggest Owusu-Koramoah will get the first chance at Rover duties on Labor Day.

His high school work at safety will aid his cause that Monday, especially with the concerns around Notre Dame’s nickel back. If fifth-year Shaun Crawford was 100 percent healthy and up to speed, the Irish may be willing to lean on him in nearly any situation. Without him, Notre Dame tested its Rovers in passing situations this spring.

“We’ve left Paul and Jeremiah in some of those situations, too, and they’ve held up fine,” Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea said at the end of spring practices. “When you have a little bit more athletic or a safety body in the Rover position, that kind of expands your playbook in base situations.”

The broken foot a season ago makes Owusu-Koramoah something of an enigma. If healthy as a sophomore, he could have made some tackles in mop-up duties and given an idea of what he can bring. Instead, he will go from two years of borderline non-existence to a possible starting role. Forecasting that unknown even further ahead is that much more difficult.

If Moala takes over the primary duties at Rover, Notre Dame will still need Owusu-Koramoah for a stretch. Early-enrolled freshman Jack Kiser lost much of the advantage of arriving early when he missed spring practice with a shoulder injury. Freshman Marist Liufau only got to campus this week. The Irish are not awash in Rover options at the moment, making the duo of Owusu-Koramoah and Moala the pairing to be used for probably the next two seasons.

Perhaps one of the current freshmen force their way into the conversation in 2021, but that will be Owusu-Koramoah’s final year of eligibility, and he should, theoretically, no longer be such a mystery by then.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 50: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle
No. 40: Drew White, junior inside linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, junior kicker
No. 35: TaRiq Bracy, sophomore cornerback
No. 34: Jahmir Smith, sophomore running back
No. 34: Osita Ekwonu, inside linebacker, consensus four-star
No. 33: Shayne Simon, sophomore linebacker
No. 32: Marist Liufau, Hawaiian freshman linebacker
No. 31: Jack Lamb, sophomore linebacker