Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 95 (theoretically) Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
Aside from the five early enrollees, the numbers are not yet known for the Irish freshmen class. That is one of the admitted drawbacks to organizing this summer-long series numerically. But a little bit of educated guessing can garner estimates for those numbers, and those estimates can allow the series to proceed without pause.
After all, the real purpose is to take a look at each player. The order, quite frankly, doesn’t matter. It is nothing more than a gimmick, be it done alphabetically, numerically or by the magic number crafted by adding the single integers of each player’s birthday. (For example, Derek Jeter’s June 26 birthday would equal 0 + 6 + 2 + 6 = 14.)
How are those estimates crafted? The first step is to take a look at certain NCAA rules. That is less helpful on defense than it is on offense. The NCAA places no stipulations on defensive integers. That is how Notre Dame ends up with one defensive end named Hayes wearing No. 93 (senior, Jay) and one defensive end named Hayes wearing No. 9 (sophomore, Daelin). Yet, only so many numbers are available. The Irish are likely to avoid any unnecessary doublings so as to lessen the chances of somehow ending up with two players wearing the same number defending, hmmm, a field goal, by chance. Obviously, such a noticeable infraction would inevitably draw a flag.
For this exercise, at least, the estimates are garnered under that presumption.
Darnell Ewell is probably not going to wear No. 95, but it is possible. It certainly seems more likely than No. 11 or No. 16, both of which are unclaimed on the Notre Dame roster. Only time will tell. For today, let’s just go with No. 95.
Listed Measurements: 6-foot-4, 280 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Freshman yet to enroll
Depth chart: Ewell will enter a competition among a number of defensive tackles looking to back up junior Jerry Tillery. That grouping most notably includes senior Daniel Cage and junior Brandon Tiassum.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star out of Lake Taylor High School in Norfolk, Va., Ewell was considered the No. 6 player in the state and No. 9 at his position by rivals.com.
Irish coach Brian Kelly certainly left the door open for Ewell to earn playing time this season when Kelly discussed the recruits on National Signing Day.
“I will say this, we’ve upgraded from a defensive line position with a guy like Darnell Ewell, 6’4”, over 300 pounds,” Kelly said. “… He’s in great shape physically, his mental preparation. I love the way he prepares in everything.
“He has a single-minded purpose in everything that he does. He takes care of himself. He’s very committed. He visited Ohio State and Notre Dame, and knew exactly where he wanted to go to school. There wasn’t much question. I love the way he handles himself on a day-to-day basis.
“He’s a guy that is prepared and wants to play immediately. We’re not going to tell him anything different. Come over here and compete right away. He’s got the physical traits and he’s got the mindset. That’s what we really like about Darnell.”
WHAT WE SAID WHEN EWELL’S NATIONAL LETTER OF INTENT ARRIVED
“Don’t expect Ewell to preserve a year of eligibility in 2017, barring injury. With his size and quickness, new defensive coordinator Mike Elko will likely want to get Ewell into the middle of the line as quickly as possible.”
Nothing about Notre Dame’s spring practice diminished the odds of Ewell earning playing time in his freshman campaign. There is still plenty of opportunity at defensive tackle, partly due to junior Elijah Taylor suffering a springtime injury, and partly due to Cage not yet appearing to be entirely full-go after suffering a concussion last season.
That is not to say Ewell will start. He won’t, at least not on day one, but if he takes to the weight room and grasps the basics of Elko’s scheme, Ewell could see his snaps increase as the season moves along.
Tillery logged 12 tackles in 12 games, including two tackles for loss, in his freshman season of 2015. If Ewell could exceed those figures, that would be a good start. Certainly, Elko and Kelly would be even happier if Ewell could approach 20 tackles. That may seem a low number, but consider that in 2016, only 14 Irish defenders made more than 20 tackles, including four defensive linemen. If Ewell were to reach that (arbitrary) threshold, it would be as much a sign of him earning playing time as it would be of him excelling in that playing time.
DOWN THE ROAD
Ewell projects as Notre Dame’s defensive tackle of the future. That probably will not be 2017, but with Cage departing following the season—probably along with seniors Pete Mokwuah and Jonathan Bonner even though each would have one more year of eligibility (Bonner is more likely to stick around than Mokwuah)—Ewell will have the chance to earn a frontline role in the spring of 2018.
2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle