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Post-Spring Defensive Depth Chart Predictions

Written by Mike Stacey ⏐ Writer ⏐ Twitter/X: @MikeStaceyIT IG: @mikestaceyit

Photo by The Irish Tribune


After covering the post spring offensive depth chart, it's time to take a look at how I believe the defensive depth chart will shake out in August. Although the Defense is expected to be the more polished unit for the Irish going into 2024, there are still some questions about who may end up starting at certain positions. Similar to the quarterback situation, some of the more intriguing position battles might end up being for the second spot on the depth chart as opposed to the starting role. I expect this unit to be VERY good this season, and potentially one of the best in recent memory given the amount of returning production. Outside of the defensive line and cornerback position groups, a lot of new faces will be seeing the field, and we are about to see what Marcus Freeman's recruiting and development are really made of.





Defensive Line


The Defensive line is going to be the difference maker for the defense this season. I know that isn't exactly a hot take, but as good as the interior line is the ends still have some questions marks. The Irish need to get more pressure on the QB from the end positions than they did last season, and with their top pass rusher heading to the NFL, (Jean-Baptiste), upperclassmen like Jordan Botelho and incoming transfer RJ Oben really need to step their game up. Botelho has shown he is capable of being disruptive and getting to the quarterback, but the consistency has not been there. Oben is coming off of a 5-sack season last year with Duke, but that is a number we would like to see an increase in this upcoming year considering the surrounding production. On the interior, however, the Irish are spoiled with talent. Getting to the quarterback should not be an issue with this unit. One area of concern is the run game, as the Irish do lack some size on the interior. However, with the depth they have outside of their 2 deep, (Donovan Hinish, Devan Houston, Sean Sevillano) I think they will be ready for that challenge. Please note that the eligibility of each player is displayed next to their name.


Edge:

  1. RJ Oben, SR

  2. Joshua Burnham, SO

  3. Bryce Young, FR or Aiden Gobaira, SO


Defensive Tackle:

  1. Rylie Mills, SR

  2. Jason Onye, JR

  3. Brenan Vernon, FR

  4. Armel Mukam, FR or Cole Mullins, FR


Nose Tackle:

  1. Howard Cross III, SR

  2. Donovan Hinish, SO

  3. Sean Sevillano, FR or Devan Houstan, FR


Vyper:

  1. Jordan Botelho, SR

  2. Boubacar Traore, FR

  3. Junior Tuihalamaka, JR

  4. Loghan Thomas, FR


Linebacker


Another position that has some question marks, but with a ton of young upside. Sure, the Irish are replacing veteran/leadership presence and terrific production in JD Bertrand and Marist Liufau, but a lot of the rising talent replacing them are more physically gifted thanks to outstanding recruiting. Players like Drayk Bowen, KVA, Jaylen Sneed, Jaiden Ausberry and Preston Zinter bring some incredible length, speed, and strength to a position where that is needed if you want to call yourself elite. That is exactly what Notre Dame is expecting to be this fall. Expect some mistakes early as these new guys learn their positions and scheme, but if Coach Golden can get them playing free and assignment correct, look out.


Middle Linebacker:

  1. Drayk Bowen, SO

  2. Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa, FR

  3. Bodie Kahoun, FR


Will Linebacker:

  1. Jack Kiser, SR

  2. Preston Zinter, FR

  3. Kahanu Kia, FR


Rover:

  1. Jaylen Sneed, SO

  2. Jaiden Ausberry, FR

  3. Teddy Rezac, FR





Secondary


Get your popcorn ready, because this unit may put on an absolute show this season. Xavier Watts, Ben Morrison, Jaden Mickey, Christian Gray? Those are all NFL players on one roster. Depth at Safety is a bit of an issue and one I wouldn't be surprised to see addressed in the near future. Also, I am curious who will ultimately back up Jordan Clark at the slot, but outside of that, this unit is a Defensive Coordinator's dream come true. It should be a no fly zone in South Bend this season, forcing teams to be more one dimensional. For those that try to push the issue in the passing game, it can be feasting season for this secondary.


Boundary Corner:

  1. Benjamin Morrison, JR

  2. Chance Tucker, JR

  3. Leonard Moore, FR


Field Corner:

  1. Christian Gray, SO

  2. Jaden Mickey, JR

  3. Karson Hobbs, FR


Nickel:

  1. Jordan Clark


Field Safety:

  1. Xavier Watts, SR

  2. Ben Minich, FR

  3. Brauntae Johnson, FR

  4. Kennedy Urlacher, FR


Boundary Safety:

  1. Adon Shuler, FR

  2. Rod Heard, SR

  3. Luke Talich, SO

Although it may be early, there's still plenty to be excited about when it comes to this roster. Whatever the depth chart looks like come August, this is easily one of the most talented Notre Dame defenses we have seen in some time. With Al Golden's pedigree, there's no telling the heights this defense will be able to reach in year three under Marcus Freeman. Please let us know how you think the depth chart will shake out in the comment section!




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