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Notre Dame Football: Irish Eyes On The Future At Defensive Tackle

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“A little thin” is not a pun.

Kurt Hinish Notre Dame
Kurt Hinish
Mike Miller/One Foot Down

With the 2018 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football season behind us, we can start to look towards the future. Next up in the grand scheme of things is spring football. This series will provide a quick look at all the position groups for Notre Dame football as we enter winter workouts, and spring practice.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Notre Dame never seems to be particularly deep at defensive tackle year in and year out, but we saw quality depth at work in 2018. Jerry Tillery was in line for a big year for the Irish and he had it. It was one that Tillery almost didn’t produce as he debated about leaving early for the NFL Draft last winter.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

In the fall of 2017, Jonathan Bonner had announced that he would be leaving football behind and move on to other things in his life. He had a change of heart, and decided to play his final year for the Irish, and just like that... Notre Dame had their starting defensive tackles set for the season.

The Irish also had a nice pair of back-ups returning as well in Myron Tagovailola-Amosa and Kurt Hinish. Both saw considerable playing time as freshmen, and were primed to make an even bigger impact in their second year.

The depth was certainly needed. MTA went down with a broken foot against Michigan, and freshman Jayson Ademilola gradually got more and more playing time in a reserve role.

The group accounted for 10 sacks and 7 quarterback hurries. While they aren’t mindblowing numbers, they did an excellent job at the point of attack and allowed the linebackers and defensive ends to get a lot of the glory — although Tillery got a fair share of his own glory over the season.

DEPARTURES FROM 2018

The Irish lose a great deal at this position group with both Jerry Tillery and Jonathan Bonner moving on with their degrees — especially Tillery who had a great year. Tillery accounted for 10.5 TFL’s and 8 sacks beating double team after double team. He had one of the most disruptive seasons at defensive tackle that the Irish have had in quite a long time, and he chewed up nearly 70% of the plays in the process. He was.. a beast.

Bonner quietly gave his all on the inside and did a lot of dirty work in taking on blockers in front of him. He was as steady of a player as we would have hoped before the season began, and the defense was better because of his return.

Micah Dew-Treadway struggled during his time on the field, and chose to transfer to Minnesota to finish his last year of eligibility.

Departing DT Production

Defensive Tackle GP TACKLES TFL SACKS PBU QBH FR FF Reg Szn Snap %
Defensive Tackle GP TACKLES TFL SACKS PBU QBH FR FF Reg Szn Snap %
55 Jonathan Bonner 13 23 0 0 2 1 0 0 43.60%
99 Jerry Tillery 13 30 10.5 8 0 5 0 3 69.19%
97 Micah Dew-Treadway 13 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 15.57%

RETURNING FOR 2019

Despite losing 3 seniors, and one of them being Jerry Tillery, the Irish return some good players with experience and talent. As we said earlier, both Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovailola-Amosa make a nice returning duo for 2019. MTA’s injury wasn’t anything that we should be worried about in the future (as he played in the Cotton Bowl).

Jayson Ademilola
Instagram

The other pieces of the puzzle include Jayson Ademilola and Ja’Mion Franklin. Ademilola increasingly saw more time throughout the season and played well for a freshman. Franklin’s season was cut short with a brutal leg injury in which he basically tore the muscle off of the bone.

Returning DT Production

Defensive Tackle GP TACKLES TFL SACKS PBU QBH FR FF Reg Szn Snaps %
Defensive Tackle GP TACKLES TFL SACKS PBU QBH FR FF Reg Szn Snaps %
41 Kurt Hinish 13 13 2 1.5 0 0 0 0 35.93%
57 Jayson Ademilola 12 19 1.5 0.5 0 1 0 0 18.80%
95 Myron Tagovailola-Amosa 2 2 0.5 0 0 0 0 0 1.11%
98 Ja'Mion Franklin 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.56%

NEW ADDITIONS FOR 2019

Hunter Spears, Jacob Lacey, Kyren Williams notre dame Mike Miller/One Foot Down

Notre Dame signed some very good talent at defensive tackle — but will it be enough?

  • 4-Star Jacob Lacey
  • 4-Star Hunter Spears

Both Spears and Lacey enrolled early, and will be in South Bend for spring football. Spears had season-ending injuries in both his junior and senior years in high school and will probably not see much time in full contact drills (I don’t have an up-to-date report on his health, so I could be mistaken here).

2019 OUTLOOK

It’s going to feel like a whole new world for the Irish at defensive tackle in 2019 without Jerry Tillery. I have a fair amount of faith in the players they have on the roster right now, but Ja’Mion Franklin’s injury from last year will really force a guy like Jacob Lacey to step up and play early.

While Hinish and MTA should see a majority of the load, Jayson Ademilola could be one of the bigger surprises in 2019 and should be involved greatly in the rotation. If Lacey can provide some quality minute along with the returning 3, the Irish should be okay.

We’ve seen how much Notre Dame likes to rotate along the defensive line over the past two years, and how the Irish manage the same type of rotation in 2019 will most likely determine how successful this group is for the year.

I (not so) secretly think Hinish and MTA will be outstanding and surprise quite a few people.

RANDOM RANDOMNESS TO PONDER

Poll

How do you feel about Notre Dame’s DT situation in 2019?

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  • 34%
    Good
    (255 votes)
  • 48%
    Okay
    (354 votes)
  • 17%
    Worried
    (125 votes)
734 votes total Vote Now