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Roster assessment - defense by Jvan

Let's start with the defensive line.

DE - Isaiah Foskey is moving on, so the rush end (Vyper) position looks like this next season: Justin Ademilola (I'm betting he will return), senior Jordan Botelho, plus sophomores Aiden Gobaira and Josh Burnham. There are no incoming Vyper recruits in 2023.

The strong side end spot has its three top players back for 2023. Rylie Mills, NaNa Osafo-Mensah and Alex Ehrensberger. The group is solid but not exceptional. Four incoming freshmen will get a look at this spot but some of them will ultimately be moved inside.

Discussion - Lack of size is a problem at Vyper. Outside of Ademilola, the other three are better suited to be outside linebackers in a 3-4 set than ends with their hand on the ground in a 4-3. Gobaira and Burnham can add weight but won't be ready for a significant number of snaps per game in 2023. Botelho has always been a 12-15 snap guy and is productive in that role. If Ademilola does not return, this position becomes a big question mark. Regardless, neither Ademilola nor Botelho is an NFL prototype pass rusher.

The strong side end is set for a while. There are no sure-fire NFL players among the upperclassmen, either. It's too soon to know much about the incoming frosh.

Outlook - The coaches should look for help at Vyper in the transfer portal. An accomplished pass rusher is a rare, cherished commodity but the need is glaring. Foskey was productive although a bit stiff, but recruiting misses leave few options to replace him with similar quality beyond 2023.

The Irish appear to be at a plateau when it comes to talent level at these positions. They have many useful players but no difference makers. The staff must continue to aim for impact players in recruiting. Expecting to find them in the transfer portal is a long shot.

NT - At nose tackle, both Jayson Ademilola and Chris Smith will not be back. Aidan Keanaaina returns from injury and appears to be the best option to start there. Behind him there are a few options that are better suited to play the three technique tackle spot. Among them are Gabe Rubio, Jason Onye and Donovan Hinish. Howard Cross, the starter at 3-tech, has played on the nose but he is too small to be effective.

DT - Cross will start here but will need others to share the load. When he's fresh, Cross is a quality player despite his lack of size. He noticeably wore down as the 2022 season progressed and his production dropped off in November. Rubio has been the next man in. Tyson Ford will be a sophomore in 2023 and could be ready to join the rotation. Onye is another option and Mills has also worked inside.

Outlook - Assuming Keanaaina starts at the nose, the biggest problem for the staff is finding a capable backup. None of the options are ideal but Rubio may be the best bet to move in behind him. That leaves Cross at the other tackle spot with a set of unproven backups. The best bet among Ford, Hinish and Onye is Ford. Mills could also play there if Osafo-Mensah and Ehrensberger can hold down the strong side end position. Beyond that, the incoming freshmen should not be counted upon to help this soon.

It's clear the 2023 defense has a lack of ideal size up front. The overall talent level is only slightly above average - certainly not top ten, difference making studs. It will be hard for the staff to plug one hole without weakening another position. Even if they find a wide body in the portal, it's more likely to be a rotation guy rather than an impact player.

In short, the team is years away from having a dominant defensive line. Recruiting was okay in the 2023 cycle but not exceptional. A higher level is needed going forward.