top of page

5 Defensive Breakout Players for 2022


Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images


Explosive! That is the word that should come to mind when Notre Dame fans think about this year’s defense. This may be the most athletic defense fans have seen since the Lou Holtz days. There are potential playmakers at ever position, and with the most recent recruiting classes, this trend should only get better. Coach Marcus Freeman is building something special at Notre Dame that should truly excite fans.


Notre Dame has had playmakers on defense in the past under Brian Kelly, but there always seemed to be one position that was lacking. Players like Manti Te’o, Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix, Jaylon Smith, Jerry Tillery, Drue Tranquill, Julian Love, Troy Pride, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Kyle Hamilton were stars in their own right, but beyond those stars much was to be desired. Despite not being finished, Coach Freeman appears to finally be building depth at each position on defense. If the following players play to their potential, the Notre Dame defense will finally be one step closer to winning a National Championship.


1. Marist Luifau

This list has to begin with Marist because he has the potential to be a superstar at Notre Dame. Luifau has always flashed with potential, but has not seemed to stay healthy up to this point. If he can stay healthy, Marist has the speed, strength, athleticism and football instincts to be an absolute force on defense. I believe the national media will start talking about Marist after three to four games this season.


2. Ryan Barnes

Despite not knowing if Barnes will start this year opposite Cam Hart, he has all of the potential to take that next step this year and be a breakout player on defense. He brings a size, athleticism and feel for the game that has been lacking at the corner position. If he can prove to be more consistent, Barnes should size up well against many of the taller receivers on the schedule this season. Will he overtake Clarence Lewis for the other cornerback spot? We have no idea, but Barnes appears to be in the best position to do so this season.


3. Brandon Joseph

Some would argue that Brandon Joseph already broke out at Northwestern, but he has yet to play a down in a Notre Dame uniform. After watching practice videos, Notre Dame fans should be very excited for what Joseph can bring to the safety position at Notre Dame. Is he Kyle Hamilton? No, but if he can stay healthy and stay on the field, he has the potential to have a bigger impact on defense this year than Hamilton did last year.


4. Rylie Mills

Rylie Mills flashed at times on defense last year, but this coming season should put his skillset on full display. Mills has the size and explosiveness to move all over the defensive line and be disruptive. With most of the attention being placed on Isaiah Foskey, Mills will have the opportunity to shine this coming season.


5. Jordan Botelho

Botehlo appears to be an enigma to many Irish fans. Despite Jordan making plays, getting to the quarterback, and bringing an energy that is infectious to the Notre Dame defense, he struggled to see the field on game day. If Jordan can figure out his off the field issues, he has the potential to become a star at Notre Dame. He should remind Irish fans of a bigger, faster, and more disciplined Tom Zbikowski on defense.


Final Take-

If these playmakers breakout this coming season, the Notre Dame defense should be the strength of this team. Despite other players needing to step up and breakout as well, these five young men have the opportunity to make an immediate impact on this year’s defense. I believe we are getting ready to witness a defense that will remind many of the glory days under Lou Holtz, so get excited Notre Dame fans. This team has the potential to be one of the most potent defenses in the country this coming season.


Go Irish!


Comments


Like Our Content?
Enjoyed This Article?
Share Below
The Irish Tribune
The Irish Tribune
Enjoyed This Article?
Share Below
The Irish Tribune
Enjoyed This Article?
Share Below
The Irish Tribune
The Irish Tribune
bottom of page