This could be his year
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a roster full of players, and we want to talk about them all. One Foot Down’s player profile series will, once again, take a look at every single one of them, and hopefully we all learn a little bit more about these guys, and Notre Dame’s chances for the upcoming 2021 season.
#19 Justin Ademilola, DE
Justin Ademilola enrolled as part of Notre Dame’s 2018 recruiting class, joining his brother Jayson and his teammate, Shayne Simon, in the class. That entire trio were products of St. Peter’s Prep, the New Jersey football powerhouse that also produced Minkah Fitzpatrick and our own Brandon Wimbush. Justin was more of an under-the-radar prospect than either of his two St. Peter’s Prep counterparts, ranked #630 overall and #35 among weak-side defensive end prospects in his class.
Despite his relatively lower ranking and a surplus of experienced and talented players on the defensive line – a phrase that is still remarkable to hear for this Irish fan who came of age in the Weis era – Ademilola worked his way onto the field relatively early in his career. With his size and physicality against the run he was quickly moved to the strong side of the defensive line, was gradually rotated in more frequently as he matured. He played in three games in his true freshman season, totaling seven tackles while preserving his redshirt; in 2019, he saw action in eight games, with nine tackles and one TFL; and by 2020 he was getting regular minutes in every game, and made seventeen tackles with one sack, 2.5 TFL and one pass breakup.
While his early playing time is a testament to his natural ability, Ademilola’s continuing progression is an impressive display of work ethic – continuing to plug ahead and improve behind talented and experienced starters. That work could pay dividends in 2021.
The Restaurant That Fits
A player from New Jersey requires a Wawa reference. These are the rules and I don’t make them.
The departures of Daelin Hayes and Ade Ogundeji leave massive holes, both on the edges of the Irish D-line and in the hearts of Irish fans. But they also could give Ademilola his chance to break out. With Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa cross-training at defensive end this offseason, it’s likely we will see both players used in a heavy rotation at the strong-side end position, maybe even playing opposite or alongside each other in specialized packages. Expect to see a lot of Ademilola in opponents’ backfields in 2021.