2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

Issue link: https://comanpub.uberflip.com/i/1133608

Contents of this Issue


Page 85 of 163

84 ✦ BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW DEFENSIVE LINEMEN F rom the ashes of a 4-8 season in 2016, Notre Dame has re-lit its football flame the past two seasons with 10-3 and 12-1 finishes, including entry into the four-team College Football Playoff last year. The flame was ignited first by the 2017 offensive line, which featured four seniors/ fifth-year seniors who spearheaded a rushing attack that averaged 269.5 yards per game. The torch then was passed in 2018 to the veteran-laden defense, specifically senior line- backers Drue Tranquill and Te'von Coney, with a massive assist in the interior from senior tackle and first-round NFL pick Jerry Tillery. This year the centerpieces of the seniority system are five senior defensive ends (see pages 90-93) who comprise one of the na- tion's stronger edge units. The safety posi- tions with senior incumbents Jalen Elliott and Alohi Gilman likewise could vie for that fulcrum role in 2019, but the veteran depth at end might provide a slight advantage. Still, if the edge of the defense is to maxi- mize its capabilities, it will also need to be aided by a revamped interior line that includes junior first-time starters in nose tackle Kurt Hinish and three technique My- ron Tagovailoa-Amosa, who missed 11 and a half games last season with a broken foot. Reliance also will be needed from their backups, sophomore Jayson Ademilola to complement Tagovailoa-Amosa, and fresh- man Jacob Lacey — maybe the top surprise of the spring behind sophomore center Jar- rett Patterson — to spell Hinish. According to second-year defensive coor- dinator Clark Lea, Lacey and Ademilola can be part of a capable four-man rotation inside that come August can also be augmented with needed reinforcements form the hopeful return of sophomore Ja'Mion Franklin and freshman Hunter Spears. Both were sidelined this past spring while recovering from major surger- ies. Franklin suffered a torn quadriceps last September in the win at Wake Forest, while Spears incurred a torn ACL last November in his high school senior year in Texas. The outside of the Notre Dame line pro- vides an allure, but it's what is inside that will be just as vital, if not more so. "That second wave of the defensive line is so important in how we rotate those guys," Lea said. "Jayson's really going to need to show consistency and the ability to push for some prime opportunities to play. … Both guys have a chance to be impact players." The upgraded recruiting along the defen- sive line the past four cycles has resulted in 18 scholarship players this year — a figure unheard of at Notre Dame since the NCAA limited the Football Bowl Subdivision to 85 total scholarship players 25 years ago in 1994. However, one of those players — re- serve junior nose tackle Darnell Ewell — may not end up being a part of the 2019 roster because of a surgical procedure this June that could mark the end of his football career. Fortunately, quantity should not be an is- sue on this year's line, while the overall quality continues to grow. ✦ SENIOR STRENGTH An accomplished and experienced defensive end unit is a focal point in 2019 Junior Kurt Hinish's 21 career tackles are the most among returning Notre Dame interior linemen. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA NOTABLE DATA Pro Football Focus, which breaks down every play of every Football Bowl Subdivision game, charted Notre Dame as possessing the No. 4 pass-rush production in 2018, behind Arkansas State, Ohio State and national champion Clemson, which featured a mini-NFL franchise defensive line. Overall, PFF credited Notre Dame with 262 pressures that were broken down into 171 hurries, 51 hits on the quarterback and 40 sacks. The Fighting Irish front line has come a long way from the 4-8 debacle in 2016 when the Irish ranked near the bottom in the NCAA stats in overall sacks (14) and sacks by linemen (three). That year PFF overall had Notre Dame with only 106 pressures (79 hurries, 14 quarterback hits and 13 sacks).

Articles in this issue

view archives of 2019 Notre Dame Football Preview - Digital Edition