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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 53 Khalid Kareem, starting defensive end

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Clemson v Notre Dame

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 29: Khalid Kareem #53 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish pressures Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Clemson Tigers in the first half during the College Football Playoff Semifinal Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium on December 29, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-4, 262 pounds.2019-20 year, eligibility: Kareem enters his final season.Depth chart: Kareem will be the unquestioned starter at strongside defensive end with senior Ade Ogundeji ably backing him up.Recruiting: The consensus four-star prospect first committed to Michigan State, then Alabama, and then finally Notre Dame. The No. 237 player in the country, per, Kareem also held offers from Ohio State and Stanford.

Kareem may be the everlasting example cited by Irish head coach Brian Kelly as to why he does not often redshirt promising defensive linemen. Kareem’s impact in 2016 was, well, nil, but he was already considering the NFL after his junior season. As long as Kareem progressed, there was never a genuine chance of him sticking around for a fifth year.

2016: Four games.2017: 13 games, 21 tackles including 5.5 for loss with three sacks and one fumble recovery.

At that point, Kareem surged in spring practice to the extent that Jay Hayes opted to transfer to Georgia, recognizing he had lost his starting gig. Kareem made good use of the increased playing time.

2018: 13 games, 42 tackles including 10.5 for loss with 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble.

Why did Kareem turn down a chance at the NFL, one that may have included a mid-round selection?

“It was semi-difficult,” Kareem said in early March. “I definitely talked to my coaches and a pretty long, deep conversation with my parents. I just felt I had more to give to this university and to this team. I wanted to finish and get my degree, for one, and then finish what we started last year. That loss kind of left a sour taste in my mouth, wanted to come back and win it all.”

That all sounds well and good, but surely some personal gains must be included in Kareem’s return, right?

“I would say just putting on a little bit more muscle,” he said. “Just getting stronger overall, take on the run blocks more, become the same guy, day-in and day-out.”

Added strength will not be the only thing benefiting Kareem in 2019 compared to a year ago.

“I definitely played through a little bit of pain,” he said. “Injured my left ankle against Michigan week one, and then my right one, another high ankle sprain in my right ankle, a little bit worse than my left one, against Vanderbilt. I really didn’t have the time to recover. We had to play. I played through it. A little bit banged up, but that’s part of football.”

“Jay Hayes’ transfer puts some unexpected pressure on Kareem. If he does not excel as a starter, losing a veteran defensive lineman will stand out as a step backward that likely could have been avoided.

“Kareem should be up for most of the duties, however. His presence will be most felt in the pass rush, just like it was last season. Ogundeji can offer some of that role, as well, so Kareem’s apparently-limited snap count may be relieved at times in pass-specific situations, letting Ogundeji use his speed and length in an uninhibited moment and keeping Kareem a bit fresher for those edge-setting challenges.

“... Kareem should build on last year’s personal totals, but he will not single-handedly make up the loss of the 55 tackles, 7.5 for loss with 1.5 sacks provided last year by Trumbetti and Hayes. If Kareem were to finish 2018 with 50 tackles, it would be comparable to Isaac Rochell’s 2016, which put Rochell onto the NFL radar. He managed only one sack in that campaign, along with seven tackles for loss; Kareem should account for at least five sacks in his increased role, and it would not be a shock to see him lead the team in the category.”

Ball State v Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 08: Khalid Kareem #53 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes against Andrew Poenitsch #64 and Danny Pinter #75 of the Ball State Cardinals at Notre Dame Stadium on September 8, 2018 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Ball State 24-16. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Talk heading into last season of Kareem being on a snap count proved to be a non-issue aside from those ankle troubles, ones highlighted by his seemingly-weekly need for assistance off the field when an ankle was (re-)injured.

Instead, Kareem picked up snaps on passing downs, moving inside to the tackle position to make space for Ogundeji on the edge. It was in those moments that the Notre Dame defensive line really became an issue for opposing offenses. And it is likely in those moments when Kareem’s impact is most felt again this season, even if those snaps do not always yield him statistics.

Kareem on the interior would, snap by snap by snap, help ease the Irish lack of depth at defensive tackle.

Overall effectiveness will buoy Kareem’s NFL hopes more than stats necessarily will, though they would earn him more general notice during the season. Defensive ends’ draft chances are influenced by their combine measurements, but perhaps not as much as at other positions. A strong regular season from Kareem would help his cause more than anything else.

Only 16 defenders reached double-digit sacks last season. Half of those came from Power Five teams, five of which went to the NFL. Four of those went in the draft’s first round, with the other falling into the third.

So consider 10 sacks to be the metric Kareem should strive for to position himself for an enjoyable draft weekend next spring.

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