Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston understands and accepts the rap on early-entry freshman Aaron Lynch.
What kept Lynch, a defensive end prospect out of Cape Coral, Fla., from garnering a fifth star from recruiting analysts was his overwhelming ability to rush the passer and his less-than-fully-developed run-stopping ability/technique.
“I can see where people felt that way about him,” said Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston immediately following his first work with Lynch on the Loftus Sports Center practice field Wednesday as the Irish kicked off the start of 2011 spring drills.
“In high school, the biggest deficiency when they get to college is that they don’t know how to defeat a block, so you can say that about a kid anyway. Very few high school defensive linemen know how to engage and attack a blocker.”
Throw Lynch into that same category. But that’s about where the comparison to an average human being pursuing a career as a defensive end comes to a halt.
“He was faster than everybody, he was bigger than everybody, so he was obviously running around them attacking the quarterback,” said Elston of Lynch’s high school career. “He did the same thing on run plays. He just ran around people. He didn’t know how to defeat the block. He just went out and made plays.”
Lynch is still making plays, and Elston is hardly fretting about what may be a bit of a shortcoming in his game at the present time.
“He’s going to be able to do it all,” said Elston of Lynch, who lined up with the No. 2 unit Wednesday during the early portion of practice. “We’re very encouraged by Aaron, and he will definitely be able to defeat a block and stop the run.”
Rarely did anyone stop Lynch during his career at Island Coast High School in Florida, and that dominance continued even when he went up against the elite in the country at San Antonio’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
“I think a lot of that stuff (about his run-game shortcomings) stuck with him from the Army All-American game, where he had, what, 2 ½, 3 ½, 4 sacks?” Elston said. “
“He’s a senior in high school. He has a long way to go. But I wouldn’t say he’s any further away than the guys who got here last year. I would say it’s a pretty similar boat, and we’ve got the same amount of time to get him ready. I would be disappointed if we can’t. I think we can get him there.”
Lynch got off to a flying start Wednesday with his size and ability shining through, and his natural aggressiveness earmarking his first appearance in a Notre Dame uniform.
“What stuck out to me over the course of practice was just his ability when the ball was snapped,” Elston said. “When the ball was snapped, he may not have done what we wanted him to do, but he was all over the field. He did a nice job. Very encouraged by him today.”
It didn’t take the first practice of the spring to reveal Lynch’s talents. He’s been working with Paul Longo and the strength and conditioning staff since his early enrollment. The 6-foot-6, 260-pounder’s ability is difficult to suppress.
“Everybody that has been working with him knows he’s very aggressive, so that helps,” Elston said. “It is a little bit rare. You get a guy, you’ve coached him hard, and you’re installing so much, and then it’s kind of a paralysis by analysis. He’s trying to analyze everything and he’s caught up in slow.
“But no, he did not have that at all today.”
Elston said Lynch is wired a bit differently, and it showed up right away on the field.
“That’s in his DNA,” Elston smiled. “He’s just made up to go. When he puts his hand down on the ground and there’s a football next to it and the ball moves, he wants to go tackle the guy with the ball. That showed up today. He’s a very aggressive guy.
“He’s going to be an awesome player if he continues to improve and comes to work every day like he did today.”