All-American Freshman Aaron Lynch
In the eighth of a 13-part series, looking at each position prior to signing day on Feb. 1, here is a quick rundown of the defensive ends: those departed, those still on hand, those recruited, what the future holds among current junior recruits, and what the future holds at the position.

(Note: The number listed in parenthesis is the years of eligibility remaining and the listing of a player's class is based upon the upcoming 2012 season.)


DEFENSIVE ENDS RETURNING: 5th-Kapron Lewis-Moore (1), Jr.-Kona Schwenke (2), Soph.-Aaron Lynch (3), Soph.-Stephon Tuitt (3), Soph.-Chase Hounshell (3), Fr.-Jarron Jones (4), Fr.-Romeo Okwara (4)

POSSIBLE POSITION SWITCH: Junior-to-be Kona Schwenke could be a candidate to help balance the depth chart at nose guard. Although there's been no indication that he'll change positions, sophomore-to-be Chase Hounshell has the frame and improving strength to move inside, particularly if the Irish were to land the Armstead brothers (Armond and Arik) from California. Incoming freshman Jarron Jones could be an interior player, or perhaps even an offensive tackle. Sophomore-to-be Ishaq Williams is needed at Cat linebacker, but he'll also likely line up in a three-point stance at defensive end in certain pass-rushing situations, as will junior-to-be Prince Shembo. Incoming freshman Romeo Okwara also could play outside linebacker for the Irish.

COMMITTED DEFENSIVE END RECRUITS: Jarron Jones (also listed as a defensive tackle), Romeo Okwara (also listed as an outside linebacker)

DEFENSIVE END OFFERS (2011-12): Noah Spence (Harrisburg, Pa.; Ohio State commit), Adolphus Washington (Cincinnati, Ohio; Ohio State commit), Tyriq McCord (Tampa, Fla.; Miami commit), Se'von Pittman (Canton, Ohio; Ohio State commit), Ifeadi Odenigbo (Centerville, Ohio; Northwestern commit), Troy Hinds (Kaysville, Utah; BYU commit), Tom Strobel (Mentor, Ohio; Michigan commit), Josh Dawson (Tucker, Ga.; Vanderbilt commit), Kenderius Whitehead (Lithonia, Ga.; N.C. State commit), Alex McCalister (Clemmons, N.C.; Florida commit), Michael Richardson (DeSoto, Texas; Texas A&M commit), Channing Ward (Aberdeen, Miss.; Mississippi commit), Arik Armstead (Elk Grove, Calif.), Javonte Magee (San Antonio, Texas; Baylor commit), Jelani Hamilton (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Miami commit), Michael Starts (Waco, Texas; Texas Tech commit), Michael Moore (Hyattsville, Md.; Virginia commit), Greg McMullen (Akron, Ohio; Nebraska commit), Martin Aiken (Bamberg, S.C.; Clemson commit), Gimel President (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.; Auburn commit), Courtnye Wynn (Norfolk. Va.; Virginia commit)

DEFENSIVE ENDS ON THE ND BOARD: Armond Armstead, Arik Armstead

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JUNIOR DEFENSIVE END OFFERS (2012-13): Jason Hatcher (Louisville, Ky.), Garrett Sickels (Little Silver, N.J.), Taco Charlton (Pickerington, Ohio), Marcus Farria (Peoria, Ariz.)

What used to be an area of anxiety has become a strength, and could get even stronger if things fall Notre Dame's way down the home stretch of recruiting. Gone is veteran defensive end Ethan Johnson, who had a solid if not spectacular career with the Irish. But everyone else returns with some reinforcements on the way.

Veteran Kapron Lewis-Moore is expected to return for a fifth-year after losing half of his senior season with a knee injury. He enters his final year of eligibility with 29 career starts, 140 tackles, 13 ½ tackles for loss, six sacks, three fumbles forced and two fumbles recovered. He should be primed for a stellar final season with the Irish come September, and he'll be surrounded some of the top young talent to come to Notre Dame at the defensive end position in quite some time.

Sophomores-to-be Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt were difference-makers as first-year players for the Irish in 2011, and now that they have some experience under their belts, look for both to really take off.

Lynch played in 12 games, starting six, and finished with 33 tackles, a team-leading 5 ½ sacks and 14 quarterback hurries, seven tackles for lost yardage, two passes broken up, two passes defensed and a fumble forced. His 14 quarterback hurries were twice as many as the No. 2 man (Darius Fleming) on the defense.

Sophomore-to-be Chase Hounshell moved past junior-to-be Kona Schwenke on the depth chart during his rookie season in 2011. He saw action in seven games, beginning with Air Force in the sixth week of the season. Schwenke needs a solid spring because Hounshell is an up-and-comer, and Jarron Jones and Romeo Okwara are on their way.

The Irish have a chance to turn a strength into something even more special if they can land the Armstead brothers - Armond and Arik. The former is a potential transfer from USC and the latter is a defensive end/offensive tackle standout who also could lend a helping hand in the paint for Mike Brey's basketball squad.