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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 47 Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end


Listed Measurements: 6-foot-2 ¼, 245 pounds.2019-20 year, eligibility: A junior, Wardlow has three seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.Depth chart: A total of five senior defensive ends remain ahead of Wardlow, three at strong side and two on the drop end, while sophomore Justin Ademilola had also moved past Wardlow by the end of last year. Thus, Wardlow is no higher than fourth in the pecking order on either side of the line.Recruiting: One of six late additions to the class of 2017, prospects chased after Notre Dame’s massive staff turnover following its 4-8 debacle of a 2016 season, Wardlow is the only one to have not already made an impact or in position to do so on Labor Day. His Irish decision came at the last possible moment, switching from a Maryland commitment on National Signing Day. A consensus three-star recruit, ranked Wardlow the No. 47 defensive end in the class.

After preserving a year of eligibility in 2017, Wardlow made one appearance, for one snap, last season at Wake Forest.

This will be discussed a bit further and more specifically in each of the other five entries, but it remains remarkable the success rate Notre Dame’s new coaching staff found in the final days of the 2017 cycle. Linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath began the swing the last week of January, followed by kicker Jonathan Doerer and running back Jafar Armstrong (then a receiver) by the end of the month.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, along with Wardlow, joined the grouping on Feb. 1, bringing the class to a total of 21 players, a half dozen of which were identified, chased and secured in the reduced period available to Irish head coach Brian Kelly’s new hires.

Of those six, five are expected to start at Louisville. That is a rather unparalleled streak of expedited recruiting success.

“It is tough to see a path to consistent playing time for Wardlow this season. (Daelin) Hayes’ all-around game continues to develop and (Julian) Okwara may soon become a bona fide pass-rusher. That junior class also includes Khalid Kareem and Ade Ogundeji, bookending the other side of the line.

“As much of a hindrance to his career as that quartet of junior ends may be, Wardlow is also the beneficiary of the Irish signing only one defensive end in the class of 2018, not to mention the departure of the only other end signed in 2017 (Jonathan MacCollister). That kind of void in the roster could work out perfectly to Wardlow’s benefit, not just because there are so few others to compete with once those juniors have moved on.

“It also means no one has leaped past Wardlow in the coaching staff’s minds, and he will have a lengthy chance to grow into the prospect imagined.”

This will be only Wardlow’s fifth fall of football, first playing the sport as a junior in high school. While it may be frustrating to be a third-year player stuck on the fourth-string, that is both a testament to the veterans ahead of him and a reality of coming to the game so late.

With that in mind, another season of development should be expected for Wardlow. Ideally, for his sake, that involves a handful of mop-up appearances, chances to get popped by an offensive tackle on one snap and chase down the opposing quarterback on the next.

Notre Dame has continued to recruit well along its defensive line, to an unprecedented extent. Consider a parallel: Every year the University releases a new set of statistics about the incoming freshman class. “The ~2,000 new students bring a median SAT score of so-high, an ACT range of are-you-kidding-me, and 110 percent were varsity athletes in high school.” And every year, the class that just graduated from Notre Dame wonders if it would have been admitted at all only four years later.

That is what has happened along the Irish defensive line. At his signing, snagging Wardlow was a coup. A clear project, his upside represented a ceiling Notre Dame did not bring in very often.

Nowadays, he would probably not be recruited at all. Freshmen NaNa Osafo-Mensah and Isaiah Foskey will not wait to pass him by, nor will the next class. So while Wardlow will get his chance when the current senior quintet finally depart (three this season, two more after 2020), he will have immediate competitors for that playing time from the incoming talent.

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