Notre Dame has size and a good amount of experience on the interior of the defensive line and come into spring knowing what they'll have to work with in the fall.
Returning Snaps from 2015: Tillery (380), Cage (283), Mokwuah (16), Matuska (15), Jar. Jones (13)
No Snaps Last Year: J. Hayes, Taylor, Dew-Treadway, Tiassum
Lost Snaps: Day (806)
Early Enrollee: None
Summer Arrival: None
No New Friends
If there's a unit on the team that should prove its a strength this spring defensive tackle has to be up there. Despite losing the All-American in Sheldon Day a full roster of 9 bodies, with 3 players with quality experience, are available this March and as far as we know everyone is healthy.
We may still see someone grow into a tackle (Bonner) or the rumored switch of Montelus finally become a reality but for the most part what you see is what you get from this unit when practice opens on Wednesday. No surprises down the road from freshmen, now let's see everyone battle it out.
99 Problems But Nose Guard Ain't One
When you talk about strength having Jarron Jones back and healthy for a 5th season cannot be understated. Pairing him up with a quality player like Daniel Cage has to make the coaching staff real happy about their ability to clog the middle of the field. Throw in rising sophomore Jerry Tillery and you've got a lot of size capable of eating blocks at a high level.
What this spring is going to tell us are the options and talent at the penetrating 3-tech position left open by the departed Mr. Day. We'd assume Tillery will open up as the starter there but even then he's coming off a suspension in the Fiesta Bowl game, may not be 100% locked in with his vibrant off-field life, and most especially is a much different player than Day with his extra 4 to 5 inches in height.
There are still plenty of high hopes for Tillery on the field but I don't know if he's an absolute lock to be someone who is playing as much as Sheldon Day. At minimum, a couple of players will be getting a major audition this spring to grab significant playing time when the team travels to Texas in the fall.
Sorting Through the Depth
If you're inclined to think that defensive tackle isn't much of a strength right now--admittedly it's a top-heavy unit in terms of proven talent--then sorting through the depth at this position is a must this spring. And honestly, it's going to be an important spring in order to see where the Irish stand long-term with this position and how that'll change the plans with recruiting.
In particularly, the 4 names above who didn't play last year are going to be scrutinized heavily this spring. As a group, is that the next wave of talent to man the trenches in 2017 and beyond?
At the individual level question marks abound for Jay Hayes. The former 4-star was forced to burn his redshirt depressingly late in the 2014 season and was given a sophomore redshirt this past season. There were rumors that he wasn't super happy about the situation but since he's still here the concern for 2016 revolves around how good he can be and how much he can help this fall.
Elsewhere, the three redshirt freshmen (Taylor, Dew-Treadway, Tiassum) now get to throw their hats into the ring for real. The lanky Dew-Treadway will be participating in his second spring and as someone with a higher ceiling should be expected to rise above the others with his frame and experience.