Notre Dame’s Top 25 Most Important Players, No. 6: Isaiah Foskey
Throughout July, BlueandGold.com will feature a countdown of the 25 most pivotal figures counted on to help lead Notre Dame back to the College Football Playoff in 2021.
This is not necessarily about who is the best player or the top pro prospect. It’s more along the lines of individuals that need to either emerge, remain a centerpiece or significantly elevate their production to help Irish reach that goal.
Much is based on talent and impact, but a premium is also placed on these questions: 1) If you subtracted this individual from the roster, how much of a setback would it be? 2) If this less proven player emerges and makes an impact, how much does that raise the ceiling (or lower it, if a breakout does not happen as expected)?
The players and their rankings were determined by vote from five BlueandGold.com staff members.
Next in the countdown is junior defensive end Isaiah Foskey, who collected 96 points in our poll.
Why Foskey Is Ranked No. 6
Take these two defensive stat lines: 17 tackles (five solo), 6.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks. Twenty tackles (eight solo), 5.0 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks.
The former set of stats came from Notre Dame’s starter at vyper last season, Daelin Hayes. The latter came from his backup, Foskey. In many ways, Hayes was outdone by his understudy.
Foskey’s snap count should rise by at least 30 percent if he stays healthy. He played just under 25 snaps per game as a true sophomore. He ranked second on the team in sacks behind Adetokunbo Ogundeji. With Ogundeji gone, Foskey is poised to be the Fighting Irish’s sack king in 2021.
At 6-5 and 257 pounds, Foskey has the build of someone who could be one of the best pass rushers in college football. He has not started a game in his career, though, so his status in this ranking is based on potential and the flashes he showed in a reserve role last season.
The potential has been described as lofty “future first-round pick” over and over again to first-year Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, though, and the flashes were eye-catching enough for him to deserve his ranking here.
Foskey’s Status Entering The Season
Foskey headlines a pretty young and talented group at vyper. Former four-star recruit Jordan Botelho is the most likely of candidates to get the bulk of second-string snaps behind Foskey, but he probably won’t be the only vyper to rotate in.
Junior Nana Osafo-Mensah will be making his return from a knee injury requiring surgery he sustained in early August last year. Notre Dame has a lot to like in that trio. All three are at least 6-2 and weigh in the 250-pound range and up. Size, strength and speed are the traits held by successful defensive ends. Foskey and his position mates have plenty of it to go around.
What they are lacking, though, is a proven body of work. Yes, Foskey compiled just as solid if not a better stat line than Hayes a season ago. But it was an uneven year for him. Three and a half of his sacks came in the first six games. Nearly 70 percent of his quarterback pressures came in the first six games. His pressure rate (11.8 percent) was worse than Hayes' (14.2 percent), too.
Foskey hit a sophomore slump, and he hit it hard. It’s better for him to go through a period of inconsistency as a backup than in a starting slot. Foskey knows what both highs and lows feel like. He’s in a position now to try to be able to control the ratio of those in his favor.
What Would Be A Successful Individual Season?
If the country is talking about Foskey as an early-round NFL Draft pick at the end of the year, then he will have done his job in his first season as a starter at Notre Dame.
The first-round potential might not be met unless he stays for his senior season, but there is a chance Foskey plays his way into second- or third-round discussion this year.
Foskey has to show an ability to get to the quarterback consistently. He has to take the QB down a few times when he gets there too. Being an elite defensive end is about more than just sacks, though. Foskey has to set the edge on rushing plays, cover a few routes in the flat and be an all-around disruptive force on Notre Dame’s defensive line.
It all goes back to the idea of potential. Coaches and fans alike believe Foskey has plenty of it. The talent is there to back them up. The opportunity as a starting vyper is there too. It’s all on Foskey to live up to the billing.
Behind The Ranking
The top 25 was determined in the same manner as the Associated Press top 25. Five BlueandGold.com staff members submitted their ballots, and each position on the ballot was given a point value. The top ranking was worth 25 points, No. 2 was worth 24, No. 3 worth 23 and so on down until No. 25, which was worth one point. The players with the 25 highest point totals made the list.
Patrick Engel: 4
Tyler Horka: 7
Mike Singer: 12
Todd Burlage: 5
Steve Downey: 6
Prior Top 25 Rankings
No. 25: Jonathan Doerer
No. 24: Marist Liufau
No. 23: Drew Pyne
No. 22: Braden Lenzy
No. 21: Jayson Ademilola
No. 20: Chris Tyree
No. 19: Avery Davis
No. 18: Josh Lugg
No. 17: Houston Griffith
No. 16: Cam Hart
No. 15: Zeke Correll
No. 14: Blake Fisher
No. 13: Kurt Hinish
No. 12: Jack Kiser
No. 11: Drew White
No. 10: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa
No. 9: Kevin Austin
No. 8: Clarence Lewis
No. 7: Cain Madden
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