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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Roster Review | Defensive Tackle

February 6, 2024
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Notre Dame made the switch to play four down on defense in 2014. What followed was many years of depth issues while they tried to play catch up at defensive tackle.

This might be the best situation the Irish have been in at the position heading into spring ball. Even with the loss of Gabriel Rubio and the uncertainty of his status going forward, the Irish are in good shape at DT.

Total snaps returning

They have 1,421 snaps returning next season with both Howard Cross and Rylie Mills bringing back the bulk of those. They really only have to replace the 15 snaps a game that Rubio averaged and that was only in nine games.

Notable returning production

They’re bringing back 18 total havoc plays (forced fumbles, tackles for loss, interceptions, and pass breakups) from the group. 16.5 of those are from that starting duo. They could use more overall production from the twos in the rotation.

Cross and Mills also combined for 111 tackles, an incredible number for an interior duo. They also combined for 71 total pressures (39 for Cross, 32 for Mills). Texas was the only other program with two defensive tackles with 30+ pressures, but both of those players are headed to the NFL.

Cross finished fifth in PFF’s pass rush grades versus true pass sets and Mills finished seventh. Mills’ 24.7% win percentage against TPS was third in the country among interior defensive lineman.

Additions

With three defensive tackles who redshirted last fall (Brenan Vernon, Armel Mukam, and Devan Houstan), the only addition at defensive tackle for 2024 is early enrollee Sean Sevillano. We’ll see how he looks this spring, but he’s very likely going to end up redshirting while he gets to the right weight and develops technically after playing in a high school scheme with a lot less structure than Notre Dame’s.

Spring competition

Cross and Mills are firmly established as starters, but no Rubio means there should be plenty of competition to be in the rotation.

Jason Onye and Donovan Hinish each played 100+ snaps last season, but neither were regulars in the rotation. Onye did not see the field against Ohio State and played less than 10 snaps in the next three games. 64% of Hinish’s snaps came in the first four games.

Hinish performed well when he had his opportunities. The question about him is still size, but he’s a similar player to Cross in many respects.

Onye had some exciting flashes, but lacked consistency from snap to snap. They should start with the twos at the beginning of spring and each of them needs to take a step this spring.

That’s because Vernon, Mukam, and Houstan should be pushing them. Vernon took reps at end in fall camp and for a few snaps against Wake Forest. He lined up inside when he got in the game against Tennessee State early in the season. He may end up competing at end, but we’ll see if the Rubio situation has an impact on where Vernon will be this spring.

Vernon seemed further along than both Mukam and Houstan last August. There’s been a long time that has passed since then and one of these three could jump the line on the depth chart.

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