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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 96 Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle

Boston College v Notre Dame

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 21: Pete Mokwuah #96 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 enter the locker room after their game against the Boston College Eagles at Fenway Park on November 21, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3 ½, 326 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Senior with two years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season
Depth chart: Mokwuah remains a ways down the depth chart, behind at least senior Jonathan Bonner and junior Micah Dew-Treadway. If junior Elijah Taylor returns from a LisFranc fracture without complication, he will also presumably be ahead of Mokwuah when it comes to playing time.
Recruiting: A consensus three-star, Mokwuah committed to Notre Dame late in the recruiting cycle as part of an Irish attempt, led by then-newly-hired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, to shore up the interior of Notre Dame’s defensive line in that class. Mokwuah had previously been committed to Rutgers.

Mokwuah has totaled one tackle in six career games, notching a takedown against Miami last season. He preserved a year of eligibility his freshman season, appeared in two games in 2015 (Texas, Massachusetts) and four last year.

Any mention of Mokwuah has come while discussing contingency plans. When former Irish defensive lineman Tony Springmann suffered a career-ending injury before the 2014 season, Mokwuah’s was one of the names Irish coach Brian Kelly cited when figuring out how to overcome the loss of the senior Springmann.

“We have, if you count [former Notre Dame lineman Jarron] Jones, Mokwuah and [senior Daniel] Cage, three guys that are over 300 pounds,” Kelly said. “In my conversations with [former Irish strength and conditioning coach Paul] Longo and particular with Cage and Mokwuah, their volume is ahead of any of the freshmen that we have had at that position since we have come here.

“Their ability to go in and take reps immediately because they are so strong, as well. Both of them physically are able to compete right away. We’ll have to see what their football ability brings, but from a work volume standpoint and from a strength standpoint, and obviously their size, we feel pretty good at that position right now.”

Two years later, toward the end of last season, Kelly was asked about the defensive line’s future once Jarron Jones graduated. Having already acknowledged Cage, Kelly once again turned to Mokwuah.

“We’ve got some guys that are becoming much more seasoned,” Kelly said. “Pete Mokwuah, [junior] Brandon Tiassum, those guys in particular have done a nice job, have come along to the point where we believe that their time is really close.”

Finding a niche in 2016 would be a great step forward for Mokwuah. Ultimately, that could be five or ten snaps a game, allowing Jones and Cage to stay fresh. But it could be just being ready to be the ‘Next Man In,’ knowing that the Irish defense desperately needs to establish some type of productive rotation to allow their young talent a chance to flourish at the point of attack.

“Three seasons into his time in South Bend, Mokwuah should be ready to compete physically. It’s also his second year working with Keith Gilmore. But nose guard is a difficult depth chart to crack, and Mokwuah’s chances of seeing the field might hinge on the rotation established to take the load off of Jerry Tillery at three-technique.”

Mokwuah may have missed his chance to make an impact on Notre Dame’s defensive front. His size remains tantalizing, but that alone will not raise Mokwuah from fourth on the depth chart to worthwhile playing time. For that matter, incoming freshmen Darnell Ewell, Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa will fit somewhere in the mix. (Tagovailoa-Amosa is the most likely to have direct competition with this piece’s subject.) They might not pass Mokwuah, but their mere presence will take away from his opportunities to impress in practice.

Despite Kelly’s repeated mentions of Mokwauh’s progress and physical presence, the ability to hold the point of attack has not been seen much on the field. The fact that Kelly did not cite Mokwuah this spring only underscores the unlikelihood of the senior making an impact in 2017.

The Irish will already struggle to sign more than 20 recruits in the class of 2018—not because the prospects won’t sign, but because Notre Dame will not have the scholarships to offer. Though he will have a fifth year of eligibility, it is highly unlikely the Irish coaching staff invites Mokwuah back for the 2018 season. If he graduates, he obviously could then transfer to another school and play from the outset thanks to the NCAA’s stance on graduate transfers.

*By no means is the “What Keith Arnold projected a year ago” section intended to showcase what Keith did or did not get right. It is intended to provide further context of how a player has performed compared to reasonable expectations.

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