A perceived weakness heading into last season, defensive tackle is now a major strength of the Notre Dame football program.
Take a quick look at the Notre Dame football recruiting classes in the past several years and it’s easy to see why the interior defensive line was a major problem for the Irish. Too many recruiting cycles were left with little to no talent, therefore, depth became a developing issue. However, Irish fans saw the emergence of young players in 2017 backed up by a solid 2018 recruiting class. Fortunately, the 2018 squad and 2019 recruiting class should be much of the same.
2018 Roster Outlook
Notre Dame returns both starters at defensive tackle in Jerry Tillery and Jonathan Bonner. Last year, we mostly saw Tillery at the nose and Bonner at 3-tech, but they will flip-flop spots for 2018. This should work out well for both players.
Two key backups will also return to the Irish rotation, and both will look to leave an even bigger stamp on the program as sophomores. Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Kurt Hinish were thrust into early playing time due to depth concerns, but they more than exceeded expectations as freshman. The other notable 2017 defensive tackle signee — Darnell Ewell — will look to take a major leap in 2018 after reserving a year of eligibility last season.
The Notre Dame coaching staff should be pleased with what they have in these 5 players, but more help is coming thanks to the 2018 recruiting class. Jayson Ademilola and Ja’Mion Franklin will be on campus this summer, and many feel they can provide a similar impact as last year’s freshmen. The cupboard is beginning to restock on an annual basis, which is the mark of a championship-level program.
2019 Numbers Projection
Speaking of restocking along the interior defensive line, Notre Dame already holds two commitments in the 2019 class. Some feel they could be done, but if an elite guy wants in, he won’t be turned away. Expect 2-3 recruits in this class.
Names to Know/Top Targets
I want to start this by showing some love to the two Irish commits, Jacob Lacey and Hunter Spears. Both recruits were in South Bend for their official visits this past weekend working hard to recruit some other top targets. Lacey verbally committed to Notre Dame back in July and has never wavered. The Kentucky high school product boasts offers from many college football blue bloods and was a major recruiting win for the staff. Spears is no slouch himself with many major offers, including Alabama. He committed in early February and has since been a big-time recruiter for the 2019 class.
With Lacey and Spears in the fold, the staff can be picky with the remaining players they choose to pursue.
Mazi Smith from Michigan is a long time Notre Dame target, and at one point was considered an Irish lean. The in-state Wolverines have been in heavy pursuit and now look like the leaders in the clubhouse for Smith. With that said, if Notre Dame had their choice of the litter many feel Smith would be their guy.
Rodas Johnson is a player I spoke briefly about in the defensive end breakdown. Johnson is versatile athlete which has allowed schools to recruit him at both 3-tech and strong-side end. This is another player the staff holds in high regard and would love to have in the class no matter the spot.
Lastly — out of Honolulu, Hawaii — Faatui Tuitele is one of the top recruits in the nation. A five-star on 247sports.com, Tuitele is receiving a ton of love from Irish coaching staff. If Notre Dame can land a visit, that would be a huge recruiting win in its own right. As of now, this is more of a wait and see type of recruitment.
Notre Dame in Great Shape
Coach Mike Elston has put Notre Dame in teriffic shape for years to come at defensive tackle. Championship programs continuously find players that can perform at a high level. Notre Dame was not doing that in the past, but the last few cycles have drastically changed the outlook along the defensive interior. The 2019 class should be no different.