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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, senior Vyper end coming off an Achilles injury

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Measurements listed: 6 ft ¾, 236 lbs.
2022-23 Eligibility: Aekwon, the eldest, has three seasons of eligibility left, thanks to a typical rookie season with retention, followed by a universal pandemic waiver silencing his nine games in 2020.
Depth Chart: Aekwonu may have found a home at Vyper end this spring for what could be the second year in a row. He has spent most of his healthy time as a linebacker over the last few years, but Viper End needs some depth and often fills the role of a hybrid linebacker. There’s Aekwonu behind the elder Isaiah Fosky and fifth year Justin Ademilolaalthough the latter will split his time between Viper End and “Big End”.
Recruiting: Ekwonoo may have disappeared into the woodwork in the last few seasons – more on that, obviously, below – but don’t forget it. ranked the four-star recruit’s consensus as the 15th inside linebacker in the 2019 class.. Ekwonoo could have gone to Alabama, Auburn or Michigan, but instead 232nd Ave in the class went to Notre Dame two months after the spring official visit.

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A career following a typical gradual schedule that is then stalled for a year due to injury often results in extremely low expectations, largely due to the subconscious “out of sight, out of mind” factor. There is stupidity in this.

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Aekwon has yet to take his mind off the fray in his collegiate career, working on special teams for his first two seasons before an Achilles tendon rupture cost him 2021. Injuries happen; aside from the obvious physical setbacks, one of the most common outcomes is that the wider world forgets the player’s potential.

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Either way, Aekwon has yet to prove himself on Saturdays or, for that matter, do something against it.

2019: 3 games, 1 tackle.
2020: 9 games, 3 tackles, one blocked shot.

Not that the Brazilian Tourist Office needs help…

A year younger, Ekwonu’s brother, Ikem “Iki” Ekwonu, was selected with the sixth overall pick in the April NFL Draft and was selected by the Carolina Panthers as a current and future left tackle. The former North Carolina State star was a unanimous All-American in 2021.

“Modern roster building and employee turnover open up opportunities in many ways. For some, it comes in the form of a new chance in Colorado. For others, it comes after the former Special Forces ace was transferred somewhere where he could start on defense.

Jack LambThe move to the west leaves a hole in special teams coverage, and while that may seem like a small role for Ekwon’s heyday, it’s a role nonetheless.

“Lamb made 13 tackles last season. Ekwonu should only get close to this number on coverage units.

“He may not get a lot of work on defense — partly because of the best-of-breed duo, partly because changing positions naturally takes learning, especially when in a new defense anyway — but any chances there should also lead to a quarterback rush.

“Ekwonoo arrived at Notre Dame as a loyal recruit. Waiting that long to get the right chance to play wasn’t expected, but that’s at least to some extent because the Irish line-up has steadily improved over the course of this four-year revival. This is not so much a blow to Aekwon as a testament to the last pair of defense coordinators. …

“This may seem more awkward than intended, but… Aekwon has the body of a man who will contribute to the Power Five team before his time runs out. In his little film, both explosiveness and speed are evident, and at some point it will break through.

“However, in Notre Dame, it can take a while. Fosky should at least think about the NFL after this season, and if that’s the case, Ekwon’s wait time may soon be over. If Fosky moves to the next level – another example of how a player’s body makes it clear what his ceiling is, in this case starting from the NFL defensive line – then the Irish will only have (Jordan) Botelho as an established Viper.

“While early enrolled freshmen Will Schweitzer as well as Become Aupiu will provide depth, Ekwon is likely to be number two in 2022. This, in turn, could lead to a starting role in 2023.”

Another day, another entrance in 99-to-0 series and another opportunity to consider a defensive ending by taking the time to run back to 2022. The Irishman dabbled with Ekwonu as a goal lineman before his Achilles injury cost him 2021, and now that Notre Dame is in desperate need of running depth, there’s a temptation to rethink the possibility.

Maybe the Irish coaching staff does that, maybe not. However, it is unlikely that Ekwon’s influence will be felt here in 2022.

It’s not buried as deep in the Vyper depth chart as the third line label suggests. Ademilola will not be a full-time Viper, which makes Ekwon perhaps a “2B” and not a true “No. 3”. Assuming this assumption, he should be taking at least 10 snaps per game, and more if he breaks at Notre Dame. (Looking at you, Cal and Marshall.)

Recruiting rankings have become uniquely accurate. Many high-ranking recruits fall short of expectations, but generally speaking, ratings correctly predict corresponding contributions. With that in mind, you need to believe in Aekwon to make the most of those 10 shots a week and still earn more.

If Aekwon is able to make an impact in 2022, then in 2023 he could have a bigger role. Notre Dame will be left without Fosca and Ademilola, leaving Viper’s role empty. Junior midfielder Jordan Botelho will probably spending more time in that hierarchy when those two veterans don’t take up most of the shots, but he’ll need a partner in the chaos.

Ekwon will have the right of first refusal from this role.

If Ekwon doesn’t succeed in 2022, then a transfer is more than likely after the season. At this point, some G5 program or lower level Power Five team will bet on the bloodline of a consensus four-star recruit, which is an understandable risk.

From Blake Groupe to Braden Lenzi, the off-season countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Group, kicker, transfer of the State of Arkansas
No. 99 Riley Mills, junior guard, player who now plays more in the end.

#98 Tyson Ford, early freshman, quarterback hired as a four-star endgame.
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore, quarterback, still “wide like a Volkswagen.”
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a young defender who tore his cruciate ligament in March.
#91 Josh Bryan Sophomore Kicker
#91 Aiden Gobaira, Freshman Early Enrollment Guard, Four-Star Recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defender, the German project is nearing completion.
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer Jr. Tight End, Likely All-American
No. 85 Holden Stace New Rookie Tight End
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, Jr. Tight End
#83 Jayden Thomas, Sophomore Receiver, Four-Star Former Rookie
#80 Kane Burrong, sophomore who suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish strikers.
#78 Pat Coogan, sophomore at center, recovering from a meniscus injury.
No. 77 Tai Chan, offensive tackle starter, former four-star rookie.
No. 76 Joe Alt, Sophomore, Beginning Left Tackle
#75 Josh Lagg, year six, offensive lineman, likely starting right back.
#74 Billy Shrout, early enrolled forward freshman after foot surgery.
#73 Andrew Christophic, senior forward turned defenseman.
#72 Caleb Johnson Sophomore Offensive, Former Auburn Bail
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line mate.
No. 65 Michael Vinson, Long Bass, “Milk”
#65 Chris Smith Defensive Tackle Harvard Transfer
No. 59 Aamil Wagner, an established four-star freshman forward.
No. 58 Ashton Craig New Freshman Center
#57 Jason Ademilola, fifth-year quarterback, after shoulder surgery.
#56 Joey Tanona, early-listed hitter with a concussion.
No. 56 Howard Cross, senior quarterback with heavy hands, and that’s good.
No. 55 Jarret Patterson, Year Five Offensive Linesman, Three Year Starting Center, Captain
No. 54 Jacob Lacy, senior quarterback, is now lighter and in the starting lineup.
#54 Blake Fischer, Sophomore, Starting Right Tackle, “Huge”
No. 52 Zeke Correll Senior Center or Possibly Left Back
No. 52 Bo Bauer, Fifth Year Linebacker, Ironman
No. 50 Rocco Spindler Sophomore Shooting Guard
#48 Will Schweitzer Sophomore Turned Linebacker
No. 47 Jason Oin,…


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