Notre Dame football: Hounshell makes big impact in win over Air Force
His twin sister owns him on the basketball court.
“We’ve played one-on-one,” the 6-foot-4, 265-pound defensive end from Kirtland, Ohio, said. “And, I’ve got to be honest, she wins.”
No, it’s not a fermented April Fool’s joke, though that’s the day in 1993 that Chase and Colette came bounding into the world.
And for the record, the 6-foot-1 Colette Hounshell is a former first-team All-Ohio selection in girls hoops who is already pushing for a starting spot at center on the St. Francis (N.Y.) University women’s team.
“She gives me football advice, too,” Chase said. “Not that I’m convinced she knows the game all that well, but it was good advice this time. She told me to go out and kick someone’s butt.”
And that Hounshell did quite often while collecting four tackles Saturday in his collegiate debut, a 59-33 grounding of Air Force.
“Hounshell played 38 plays for us and played very, very well in his first college appearance,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said. “He is going to play this year for us. He showed that he's a football player. So we were really excited about watching the film about his play.”
Up until the Monday before the game, it appeared the Irish coaches were excited about redshirting the former Mentor Lake Catholic High standout. Through the first five weeks of the season, there were no hints that Hounshell was going to join fellow freshman ends Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt on the active roster.
If anything, all signs pointed away from it. Hounshell didn’t make one travel roster - Michigan, Pitt or Purdue - and doing so usually is a precursor to the coaches considering extracting a freshman from the redshirt pool.
“I was shocked when they told me,” he said of the Monday meeting that put him on the fast track to significant reserve work against Air Force. “I was practicing hard every day. You never know what’s going to happen.”
What happened was that ND’s most experienced defensive lineman, senior Ethan Johnson, suffered a sprained ankle on the very first Irish defensive possession at Purdue on Oct. 1 and was subsequently fitted for a protective boot.
Lynch was the logical replacement, and he did play against the Falcons, but the Irish were employing a 4-3 front against Air Force. And playing inside mitigated what Lynch does best on the edge.
Sophomore Kona Schwenke and senior swingman Hafis Williams were other options, but Hounshell simply rose to the occasion.
“The coaches asked me if I was ready, and I said, ‘Yeah, let’s get this thing going.’ If they had wanted me to use a year to play just one play, I would have been for it. I trust the coaches and the decisions they’re making.”
In a normal recruiting year, Hounshell might have been considered the jewel of the defensive class. But nothing was normal about last year’s class - not even Hounshell’s role in it.
The three most vaunted players - Tuitt, Lynch and Ishaq Williams - were all 11th-hour final decisions. Lynch committed to ND, flipped to Florida State, then re-committed to ND shortly before enrolling early.
Tuitt also committed to ND first, then chose Georgia Tech, but ended up signing with the Irish. Williams was getting ready to leave for a recruiting visit to Penn State in mid-January when Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco intercepted him on a Friday at 4:30 a.m., at Williams’ home in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Forty-eight hours later, Williams and his father were on their way to ND to enroll for the spring semester. The five-star outside linebacker began classes two days later.
Hounshell, meanwhile, committed in mid-August 2010 to Florida and was all set to enroll early there and play offensive line for the Gators when then-Gators coach Urban Meyer abruptly resigned on Dec. 8.
“I kind of committed to Florida, suddenly,” Hounshell recounted. “They offered, I loved them, I committed. I never really gave Notre Dame that much of a look, and they didn’t really give me that much of a look, either.
“After Urban Meyer left, Notre Dame came into the picture. That’s when I started taking visits there every weekend. And I just have become so comfortable here and love it.”
Hounshell, in fact, compares it to walking into a dream. Even when he wasn’t playing. Even knowing he’ll have to compete with Lynch and Tuitt the next four years for playing time.
“Competition brings out the best in people,” Hounshell said. “I truly believe that. If you have two great athletes coming in your year, Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt, that can bring your game up. That’s definitely what they did to me.”
Staff writer Eric Hansen: