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Q&A With Adetokunbo Ogundeji: NFL Draft Preparation, Senior Bowl, What Notre Dame Needs To Catch Alabama

Adetokunbo Ogundeji celebrates in the first half.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 29: Adetokunbo Ogundeji #91 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish reacts after a play in the first half against the Clemson Tigers during the College Football Playoff Semifinal Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium on December 29, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Notre Dame is coming off one of the best seasons in program history, and Adetokunbo Ogundeji is a major reason why. The 6-foot-4 defensive end took his game to the next level this past season, proving he can be a pass rusher at the next level.

Ogundeji finished the 2020 season with a career-high six sacks. He also had 20 total tackles and a forced fumble.

All this momentum from this past season carried over to the Senior Bowl, as Ogundeji impressed several scouts down in Mobile, Alabama. Jim Nagy, the executive director for the Senior Bowl, had some praise for the Notre Dame pass rusher before the event.

"One player we see shooting up NFL boards between now and April is Notre Dame's Adetokunbo Ogundeji," Nagy

One player we see shooting up NFL boards between now and April is @NDFootball DE Ade Ogundeji. Got to ND as 17 year old and best football still ahead of him. Relentless effort guy. Long, good with his hands, and he can really run. Fun to watch on tape. #TheDraftStartsInMOBILEpic.twitter.com/mOmQ4Qb8i4

— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) October 31, 2020

">wrote on Twitter. "Got to Notre Dame as 17-year-old and best football still ahead of him. Relentless effort guy. Long, good with his hands, and he can really run. Fun to watch on tape." We sat down with Adetokunbo Ogundeji this week to discuss this past season for the Fighting Irish, his experience at the Senior Bowl, which defensive ends he watches on film, and much more.

The Spun: Has it hit you yet that you’re 2 months away from the NFL Draft?

Adetokunbo Ogundeji: Not really. It’s kinda hitting me as I go through this process, but I’m truly just blessed and thankful that I get to play a sport I truly love. It’s not hitting me that much, but every day I start to realize how cool this is and how great of an opportunity this is.

The Spun: How was the Senior Bowl experience a few weeks ago?

AO: It was a great experience. First and foremost, I’m thankful for Jim Nagy and his staff for giving me an opportunity to play. Second, it was great to be around the best seniors. And just being with the coaching staff and seeing the teams face-to-face was a great opportunity.I think it was a great week. I had fun, I built relationships with some guys, and it was just a cool opportunity.

The Spun: Who would you say was the best offensive lineman you went up against in drills?

AO: I would say a person who I played against, but he played a different position, Rob Hainsey. He was playing guard most of the time there. He usually plays tackle, but I think he did a great job transitioning to guard. I think he did a lot of great things. I knew he was really good tackle, but I didn’t know he was that versatile, and he proved it at the Senior Bowl.

The Spun: What’s your best trait heading into the draft, and on the other hand, which needs the most work?

AO: I think my best trait is that I’m relentless, I go 100 percent to the whistle. I also use my length very well when it comes to pass rush and trying to get off the offensive lineman. I think something I need to work on probably is having a variety of pass-rush moves - having three or four moves I can counter back off of.

The Spun: Looking back at this past season. What was the best moment for you?

AO: I don’t think there was any moment in particular, obviously beating Clemson was great. Just playing this season with everything that went down with COVID-19 was a huge blessing. To play with the guys, have fun, and make it to the Playoff made for a great season. So me just getting the news that we were going to play against ACC competition was the best news of that year.

The Spun: Is Notre Dame at the level of an Alabama, and if not, what do they need to do to get there?

AO: We didn’t win, obviously, and that sucks. For us, we need to do things better on both sides of the ball. I feel like if we’re just a little more detailed in our defensive scheme and on offense, I think we’ll do a good job finishing games like that. Obviously, Alabama is a great team and they won a national championship so you have to give them credit. I do think we had opportunities in this game where we could’ve made plays on both sides of the ball to put ourselves in a better situation. I think these next couple teams that Notre Dame has are going to be really great. I think the future is bright - there’s a lot of young talent at Notre Dame right now.

The Spun: What are your thoughts on Ian Book as a quarterback at the next level?

AO: I think he’s a winner. I think his record speaks for itself. That’s what he does [win]. When he took over the starting position, we won - it’s as plain and simple as that. I think people try to make it a big deal and nitpick things, but when it comes down to what you want from a quarterback, you want one who’ll help you win. Ian Book showed that when he was the starting quarterback at Notre Dame.

The Spun: Is there a pass rusher you like to study film on?

AO: I don’t really watch one particular person because I’m a firm believe that everyone has their own individual traits and things they’re good at. So I’m not really focused on one person, but I do look at people with similar attributes I can implement into my game. I like to watch Chandler Jones because he does a good job of using his long arms. I’ve recently been watching Jason Pierre-Paul, especially throughout the playoff run. He does a good job of using his long arms and body to create pressure on the quarterback. So I watch those two guys, Cam Jordan, I like to watch his speed-power flip moves since those are ones I like to do. It just depends on what a pass-rusher does. I’m just paying close attention to their movements.

The Spun: Who’s the one quarterback you really want to sack in the NFL?

AO: I know this is gonna sound cliché, but if I hit any quarterback, I will just rejoice anyway. Just to be in the NFL and getting a sack would mean so much to me. But you know, Tom Brady is the greatest player that I’ve watched in my lifetime, so sacking him would be a huge accomplishment. Regardless of who that first quarterback is that I sack I’ll be excited.

NFL teams are always in need of help on the edge, so Ogundeji will attract plenty of interest leading up to the draft. In fact, he spoke to a handful of teams at the Senior Bowl and plans on having a virtual meeting with the New Orleans Saints.

Ogundeji is currently projected to be a mid-round pick in the NFL Draft, but he could boost his stock with a strong showing at his pro day.

You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.