Ever since Justin Tuck left South Bend for the NFL, Notre Dame has been longing for an elite pass rusher to get to opposing quarterbacks on a consistent basis.
In his five years in South Bend as the head coach of the Irish, Charlie Weis tried his best to bring top talent in through recruiting. Notre Dame was in on top level pass rushers across the country, but the talent ended up going to green pastures elsewhere, mostly to SEC schools.
The main goal of Brian Kelly during last year’s recruiting class was to bring in great talent on the defensive side of the ball, especially on the defensive line. Kelly did exactly that in putting together one of the greatest defensive line hauls in Notre Dame history.
Aaron Lynch was the key to the class. One of the top defensive talents in the entire country, Lynch picked the Irish early in the process before backing out of his commitment and picking the Seminoles. Lynch would finally decide that going to Notre Dame was the right choice and he signed with the Irish on National Signing Day in February.
Expectations for Lynch coming into the season were extremely high. Some Irish fans even predicted that the freshman defensive end would have double digit sack totals in his very first season in South Bend, but the youngster got off to a slow start.
In his first two games in his freshman season, you didn’t hear Lynch’s name a lot from the announcers. Lynch played sparingly in the South Florida game and hardly saw the field against Michigan, but that all changed in last week’s game against Michigan State.
When the afternoon was over, Lynch had five tackles, a sack with a forced fumble and six hits on Kirk Cousins. According to Keith Arnold’s Inside The Irish blog over at NBC Sports, the Irish had that many QB hits only once last year in the game against Utah.
Talk about making an impact in only your third game as a player at the collegiate level.
Lynch was able to have a big game because of the play of nose tackle Louis Nix. Just like a great nose tackle does in a 3-4 defense, Nix at times had to be double and triple teamed by Michigan State’s offensive line that helped freed up Lynch on the outside.
As long as Nix continues to draw double and triple teams from teams offensive lines, Lynch can remain a nuisance on the edge. Notre Dame hasn’t had a stud end like Lynch since the days of Tuck. His speed and athleticism can enable to change games in an instant.
It will be fun to continue seeing Lynch grow as a player. He showed tremendous strides in last week’s game and should continue to do so as the year goes on. That doesn’t bode well for opposing quarterbacks.