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Notre Dame's Revamped Defensive Front Set to Face Test from New Look Navy Offense

Written by Phil Kowalis|Writer|Twitter: @PhilKowalisIT


Photo by NBC Sports


The last time Notre Dame and Navy faced each other on the gridiron, the defensive front of the Irish was the strength of the defense, a unit that could be depended on to produce a solid and sometimes spectacular performance consistently each week.

When the teams meet Saturday at Aviva Stadium in Dublin Ireland to open the 2023 season, the Notre Dame defensive line is the biggest question mark on a defensive unit that boasts solid position groups at both linebacker - where the Irish return starters, JD Bertrand, Marist Liufau and Jack Kiser - and in the defensive backfield where cornerbacks Cam Hart, Benjamin Morrison and Jaden Mickey join safeties DJ Brown, Xavier Watts and Oklahoma State transfer

Thomas Harper. Heading into the season opener, the Irish defensive front must find a way to replace the 22.5 tackles for loss and 17 sacks the team lost with the departures of Isaiah Foskey and Justin and Jayson Ademilola. Let's take a look at where the Irish will turn to make up that lost production in 2023.

Photo by Sports Illustrated





The Notre Dame defensive line will be bolstered by the return of nose tackle Howard Cross.

Cross was a productive player last season recording 76 tackles, 7.5 TFL and 5.5 sacks and could be poised for a breakout season.

Junior Jason Onye had an impressive fall camp, and will be counted on as a quality backup at the position, as Marcus Freeman mentioned earlier this week during a press conference. Sophomore Donovan Hinish will also be in the mix providing much needed depth at the position. Rylie Mills, Notre Dame's starter at strong side defensive end a year ago, has bulked up and will move inside to start at defensive tackle in 2023. Mills had a solid but inconsistent season a year ago, but showed potential to be a game changing type of player. The Irish need Mills to fulfill that potential as they need him to be a disruptive force from the tackle position. Replacing Mills at the strong side defensive end position will be the combination of Ohio State transfer Javontae Jean-Baptiste and Nana Osafo-Mensha. Jean-Baptiste had 51 tackles 10 TFL and 8 sacks last season for the Buckeyes while Osafo-Mensha had 27 tackles 3.5 TFL and a sack in a backup role to Mills. Sophomore Josh Burnham will add depth at both the defensive end and vyper positions.

Photo by 247 Sports


The task of replacing Foskey, Notre Dame's all-time sack leader, at the Vyper position falls on

senior, Jordan Botelho. Botelho recorded 33 tackles 9.5TFL and 6.5 sacks last season mostly in a backup role, and is looking to build on his limited success.


The Notre Dame's defensive line isn't the only thing that has changed since the two teams last meeting.Long time Navy head coach Ken Niumataolo stepped down at the end of last season and was replaced by defensive coordinator Brian Newberry. Newberry has brought in Grant Chestnut from Kennesaw State to run the offense. While Chestnut plans on bringing more balance to the Navy offense by increasing the role of the passing game and introducing a multiple formation look to the Midshipman ground game, the triple option will also remain a part of the offensive arsenal.



Despite the changes to the Navy program, expect the Midshipmen to take advantage of the strongest part of their offense, a veteran offensive line, and continue to emphasize the running game and ball control style of offense. In last season's matchup the Midshipmen rushed for 255 yards on 46 carries good for an average of 5.5 yards per carry against a more experienced and veteran Notre Dame defensive line. The ability of Notre Dame's revamped defensive front to stop the Midshipman running game will go a long way in deciding the outcome of this contest.


The Notre Dame defensive line group is very talented and loaded with potential, the possibility is there for this group to feature a 10-man rotation along the defensive front. The ability of this group to turn their potential into a dominate on field performance may be the deciding factor in just how successful the 2023 season can be.

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