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Notre Dame Football

Post-Spring Position Outlook | Defensive Tackle

May 28, 2021

For a few years when Notre Dame made the switch to a 40 front, defensive tackle had the worst depth on the team out of any position on the roster.

Today the depth is so good that it’s one of the reasons they’re sticking with a 40 despite Marcus Freeman’s success playing with three down linemen.

It’s a veteran group. It’s a talented group. It lost a starter to another spot on the D-line and doesn’t look like it will miss a beat.

Everything starts with Kurt Hinish, who elected to return for a fifth year. He looked as strong and as quick as he’s ever been in a Notre Dame uniform when we saw him in the spring game. He was a huge part of the Irish having one of the better run defenses in college football last season and he will be a foundational piece again in 2021.

It’s not like he won’t be pushed for snaps, though. Howard Cross flashed as much as any player we saw all spring and was singled out as a top performer. After being solid as a rotation piece last year and playing more nose tackle, he offers the defense a tremendous one-gap penetrator who can play either tackle spot for the Irish.

Jacob Lacey missed spring recovering from a shoulder injury he played through last fall. He didn’t end up taking the step many expected him to because of that injury. Now might be the time for him to take it and become a factor when he’s back to being fully healthy this summer.

Aidan Keanaaina is someone who flashed in limited viewings this spring as well. In a normal year he might be a lock for the rotation. With this group, he’s going to have to scratch and claw to earn his chances.

Early enrollee Gabriel Rubio appears to be in line to redshirt this season primarily because of the depth in front of him. I think we can expect him to find a home at nose tackle as opposed to three technique, but we’ll see how things progress with him over the next year.

Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa could have been a three-year starter at three tech, but they had the luxury of moving him out to End because of someone like Jayson Ademilola. Another guy who we heard was impressive and we saw in the backfield numerous times on highlights, Ademilola looks poised to have a very productive season.

He’ll have to fight off Rylie Mills who looked like he built on the exciting flashes he showed as a freshman last year. If he can get more consistent at the point of attack, he’s going to be a problem for guards to handle. He’s already a dangerous player who knows how to use his length to win frequently as a pass rusher.

NaNa Osafo-Mensah and Alex Ehrensberger both worked inside at three tech in addition to End. Those two in addition to Cross’ versatility and having MTA in any emergency situations means that Notre Dame should be fine at that spot all season.

We’ll see if someone can emerge as a game wrecker from this group, but even if that doesn’t happen, Mike Elston has several players who he knows can be disruptive and make plays in the backfield. It all comes back to recruiting. It’s a depth chart filled with 4-star talent and Notre Dame is seeing the results of that strong recruiting.

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