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Notre Dame Football

Dissecting the Depth Chart - Defensive Tackle

July 10, 2018

If you took a poll on what was the most concerning position for Notre Dame heading into the 2017 season, defensive tackle would have probably been at the top of the list. The depth chart was a bit of a mess heading into August. Inconsistent, inexperienced, and ineffective would have described what most people saw from the candidates who were competing there.

No one could have predicted that it would have turned out as well as it did. Jerry Tillery emerged as a rock at nose guard. Previously undersized Jonathan Bonner was solid versus the run beside Tillery. While the depth didn’t prove to be great, they did get contributions from two true freshmen and the starters proved to be durable.

This year there’s a much rosier picture heading into fall camp. With Tillery deciding to stay in school, things are set up for this group to be one of the strengths of the defense. Last year it was primarily three-man rotation, but based on what we saw in the spring, Mike Elston should have more options to choose from to throw out there at defensive tackle.

Tillery’s Switch

The biggest change for the position group is Tillery sliding over to 3-technique from 1-tech/nose. It should give him more opportunities to be single blocked and in turn make more plays in the backfield. He was already a disruptive presence at nose with nine tackles for loss in ‘17. He could challenge to be an All-American candidate if he plays at the same level he did last year.

Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa is set to be the number two behind Tillery and he had a good spring. It sure looked like he had taken a step in the right direction and if he’s good enough, we might even see him and Tillery together on the field at the same time in some packages.

One of those would be in Dime when Elston is trying to get four good pass rushers on the field together on obvious passing downs. It’s not a slam dunk MTA will get that chance, though. One of the reasons is that true freshman Jayson Ademilola could find his way to playing in that package. His hands are extremely advanced for someone his age. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Ademilola could push MTA for his spot in two-deep, but it would likely take a monster summer then a lights out camp for that to happen.

The 3-tech in this defense needs to be a disruptive position. For the most part, it was not that in 2017 and that could change in a big way because of these three players.

Competition at 1-tech

Tillery essentially flipped positions with last year’s starter at 3-tech, Jonathan Bonner. The good news is that Bonner was forced to play a little bit of 1-tech for the Irish last season due to lack of depth. He was solid when called upon. Now he has to be better than solid in a full-time role. The odds are that he will not be as good as Tillery was, but we’ll see how things progress.

He was limited in the spring with an injury and will be ready for camp.

Behind him is sophomore Kurt Hinish who made a huge leap in the spring. He benefited from extra reps with Bonner out. I’m not sure if any player changed more physically than Hinish, who was in much better shape than when he arrived at Notre Dame the previous summer. While he may not be a pass rush threat, if he shows out enough versus the run then he may challenge Bonner for the starting job.

Micah Dew-Treadway appears to have finally found a home at 1-tech and he also had a lot of reps in the spring. He flashed at times, but that has been the story with MDT for awhile. He needs to show more than flash in August to firmly place himself in the rotation this fall.

From there it gets interesting.

True freshman Ja’mion Franklin is not going to be expected to play with who is in front of him. He’ll have to be great early on to have a chance at getting into the mix. Right now he is a four game redshirt candidate in my opinion, but maybe he can prove to be more right away.

This is going to he an absolutely massive fall camp for Darnell Ewell entering only his second year with the Irish. In the spring he looked light years away from pushing for time on most of the snaps we watched him. If he gets passed on the depth chart by Franklin, Ewell may struggle to overcome that in the next few years.

He needs to be in great shape, play with better leverage, and a better motor.

Can this 1-technique group as a whole be better than average? If they are then Notre Dame is going to be in great shape on the defensive line.

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