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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 54 Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee


Listed Measurements: 6-foot-1 ⅝, 294 pounds.2019-20 year, eligibility: An early-enrolled freshman, Lacey has all four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.Depth chart: Lacey’s status goes hand-in-hand with the previous entry’s, sophomore Ja’Mion Franklin. With the latter injured, Lacey moves into the two-deep at nose tackle behind junior Kurt Hinish.Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, Lacey was the first of Notre Dame’s signees to commit, way back in July of 2017, 17 months before he would send in his National Letter of Intent. The No. 21 defensive tackle in the class, Lacey chose the Irish over finalists of Clemson, Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State and Tennessee.

Franklin’s injury opened the door for Lacey to impress this spring, which he did to enough of an extent to allay some of Notre Dame’s depth concerns at tackle.

“Obviously, as you know, I’m pretty high on Lacey,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said following the Blue-Gold Game. “We think he’s an outstanding player that can give us immediate depth.”

“A prototypical defensive tackle, Lacey provides raw power in the middle. When dialed in, that can create as much chaos in the backfield as a lightning quick end.

“Lacey could provide some relief next season for first-time starters Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa. Keeping them fresh through the season will be a priority, and one only possible if Lacey and current freshmen Ja’Mion Franklin and Jayson Ademilola handle 15-20 snaps apiece per game.”

Lacey should be ready to see action before halftime at Louisville on Labor Day. As much as one might want to think that is a compliment to him, more precisely it is an acknowledgement that Franklin will likely not be full-go and Hinish should not be counted on to take every snap. (No defensive tackle should be.)

Until Franklin is 100 percent, Lacey will need to provide suitable relief for Hinish. That may result in playing in only four games — a lower-limit contingent on Franklin’s healthy return — but those snaps will be essential both in Notre Dame’s short-term and long-term. Lacey proving effective will help the Irish survive September; easing Hinish’s workload will help him remain effective into November.

In those regards, measuring Lacey’s freshman season by stats will not grasp his entire impact. That said, he easily could reach 12-15 tackles even if in only four appearances.

Lacey may project better at the 3-technique than at nose, given his ability to power through a blocker, but the Irish already have sophomore Jayson Ademilola ready to support at 3-technique behind junior Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa. At either position, though, Lacey should have his chance to make an impact. Frankly, that chance will be better at nose, even if the broad responsibility there is to maintain blockers rather than penetrate into the backfield.

Hinish will be out of eligibility after the 2020 season, leaving Franklin and Lacey on the same trajectory, unless Lacey does indeed preserve a year this fall.

Being able to forecast out a few years and see ready replenishments of four-star defensive linemen remains a hard reality to realize for Notre Dame, but it is the one at hand, nonetheless.

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