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Ohio native Brenan Vernon officially signs with Irish

| Monday, December 19, 2022

Top defensive end commits from Ohio do not often leave the Buckeye State, but Notre Dame has broken the trend. Brenan Vernon of Mentor, Ohio signed his National Letter of Intent for the Irish on Wednesday morning. Vernon, who recently visited South Bend for the Clemson game, made a verbal commitment in June 2021. He opted away from 13 Power Five offers, including Alabama, Michigan, Penn State, Tennessee and in-state powerhouse Ohio State.

The first thing that comes to mind in evaluating Vernon is his sheer size. Stacking up at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, he can be an extreme disruptor on the defensive line. Even Irish head coach Marcus Freeman, who was a defensive standout himself, appears undersized standing next to Vernon on recruiting visits. At Mentor High School in suburban Cleveland, Vernon was a first-team all-district selection this past season. He was also handpicked for the 2023 All-American Bowl in San Antonio, TX, which showcases the best high school football players in America. 

In terms of playing style, Vernon shines in his ability to gain leverage, even against frequent double and triple teams. Though scouts see room for improvement in his pass rush, his frame and relentless attack create a very high floor. Kyle Kelly, Notre Dame’s recruiting analyst from Rivals, sees Vernon as an unceasing instrument of chaos up front.

“Brenan Vernon is a guy I’m really excited about,” Kelly said. “He’s more or less a maniac on the defensive line, a high motor guy.”

Rivals marks Vernon with a 6.0 rating and a four-star designation, making him the second-highest-ranked Notre Dame 2023 recruit. Freshman Tyson Ford, whom Notre Dame brought in at defensive end last year, carried similar metrics. With the 6.0 rating, Vernon is a high-end All-American candidate and a potential late first or second-round NFL draft selection by the Rivals system. The recruiting service lists him as the 2nd-best player from Ohio and the 7th-best strongside defensive end in the country.

With senior defensive end Isaiah Foskey moving on to the NFL, Notre Dame needs all the help it can get replacing the all-time program sack leader. The Irish have set up a carousel of young ends in Foskey’s wake, so Vernon may have to fight through a crowd at first. However, with Vernon’s motor and raw ability, he will not need much action to make an immediate impact.

“Similar to [Drayk] Bowen, he’s ready to play at the college level,” Kelly said. “There’s depth along the Notre Dame defensive line, and there’s going to be a lot of current freshman and sophomores trying to find their way onto the field, but I think Brenan Vernon could shake that up.”

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