Aaron Lynch said he’s matured. He also promised more personal fouls this season.
That’s the line straddled by the dynamic sophomore defensive end, a player capable of setting fire to opposing game plans and sometimes Notre Dame’s own schemes. The edge Lynch brings can be a double-edged sword, but the Irish won’t dull it for the forced sake of conformity.
“They’re not telling me to go out there and get personal fouls, but they’re not telling me to be soft either,” Lynch said. “They try to tell me to calm it down a little bit, but I’m still going to play with that intensity no matter what.
“If you don’t play with an intensity and a passion, I don’t think you should be on the field.”
In that case Lynch won’t come off it. He broke into the starting lineup last season after Ethan Johnson went down with a badly sprained ankle at Purdue. Lynch never really left it, starting six of Notre Dame’s final eight games. Even with Johnson healthy at season’s end, it was Lynch who started against Stanford and Florida State.
The former four-star recruit with a five-star personality finished as a freshman All-American and led Notre Dame with 5.5 sacks to go with seven tackles for loss.
Lynch’s best stat might have come in the classroom last fall when he logged a B-average after struggling through early enrollment in the spring. The culture shock of South Bend and snow deep enough to shut down campus on National Signing Day a year ago took its toll. Lynch has since warmed up to Notre Dame during its mild winter, or at least thawed to it.
“I still would rather be in a different environment in like with weather and stuff, but I’ve got no choice,” Lynch said. “I’m here, so I’ve got to stay here. I thought it was a great winter actually between the one when I came in with all that snow. And this one was just like regular snow. I’m fine with that.”
If Lynch doesn’t plan to relax on game day, he’s at least mellowed in practice. Teammates describe a player who asks more questions and talks back less. Lynch was difficult to coach last spring when he looked around the roster and didn’t see a player with his skill set.
A full year later, Lynch has learned to trust scheme over skill.
“In the beginning I was childish. I was straight out of high school, you know?” Lynch said. “I have a short temper. You yell at me, I’m ready to fire back at you. You can’t be like that now. I’m a lot better at that.”
When did that change take place?
“When I knew that I had to step up,” he said. “When guys started getting hurt I was like now I do need to take coaching.”
If Lynch has a new respect for his coaches, the rulebook remains circumspect. Even with another season of maturity at Notre Dame, reverence for quarterbacks and officials’ whistles that make them off-limits doesn’t seem to be coming.
“Honestly every year I’m going to get some yellow flags,” Lynch said. “Because that’s how I play football. That’s my intensity.”