Rivals.com

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 95 (theoretically) Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle

7 Comments

Aside from the five early enrollees, the numbers are not yet known for the Irish freshmen class. That is one of the admitted drawbacks to organizing this summer-long series numerically. But a little bit of educated guessing can garner estimates for those numbers, and those estimates can allow the series to proceed without pause.

After all, the real purpose is to take a look at each player. The order, quite frankly, doesn’t matter. It is nothing more than a gimmick, be it done alphabetically, numerically or by the magic number crafted by adding the single integers of each player’s birthday. (For example, Derek Jeter’s June 26 birthday would equal 0 + 6 + 2 + 6 = 14.)

How are those estimates crafted? The first step is to take a look at certain NCAA rules. That is less helpful on defense than it is on offense. The NCAA places no stipulations on defensive integers. That is how Notre Dame ends up with one defensive end named Hayes wearing No. 93 (senior, Jay) and one defensive end named Hayes wearing No. 9 (sophomore, Daelin). Yet, only so many numbers are available. The Irish are likely to avoid any unnecessary doublings so as to lessen the chances of somehow ending up with two players wearing the same number defending, hmmm, a field goal, by chance. Obviously, such a noticeable infraction would inevitably draw a flag.

For this exercise, at least, the estimates are garnered under that presumption.

Darnell Ewell is probably not going to wear No. 95, but it is possible. It certainly seems more likely than No. 11 or No. 16, both of which are unclaimed on the Notre Dame roster. Only time will tell. For today, let’s just go with No. 95.

DARNELL EWELL
Listed Measurements: 6-foot-4, 280 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Freshman yet to enroll
Depth chart: Ewell will enter a competition among a number of defensive tackles looking to back up junior Jerry Tillery. That grouping most notably includes senior Daniel Cage and junior Brandon Tiassum.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star out of Lake Taylor High School in Norfolk, Va., Ewell was considered the No. 6 player in the state and No. 9 at his position by rivals.com.

QUOTE(S)
Irish coach Brian Kelly certainly left the door open for Ewell to earn playing time this season when Kelly discussed the recruits on National Signing Day.

“I will say this, we’ve upgraded from a defensive line position with a guy like Darnell Ewell, 6’4”, over 300 pounds,” Kelly said. “… He’s in great shape physically, his mental preparation. I love the way he prepares in everything.

“He has a single-minded purpose in everything that he does. He takes care of himself. He’s very committed. He visited Ohio State and Notre Dame, and knew exactly where he wanted to go to school. There wasn’t much question. I love the way he handles himself on a day-to-day basis.

“He’s a guy that is prepared and wants to play immediately. We’re not going to tell him anything different. Come over here and compete right away. He’s got the physical traits and he’s got the mindset. That’s what we really like about Darnell.”

WHAT WE SAID WHEN EWELL’S NATIONAL LETTER OF INTENT ARRIVED
Don’t expect Ewell to preserve a year of eligibility in 2017, barring injury. With his size and quickness, new defensive coordinator Mike Elko will likely want to get Ewell into the middle of the line as quickly as possible.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Nothing about Notre Dame’s spring practice diminished the odds of Ewell earning playing time in his freshman campaign. There is still plenty of opportunity at defensive tackle, partly due to junior Elijah Taylor suffering a springtime injury, and partly due to Cage not yet appearing to be entirely full-go after suffering a concussion last season.

That is not to say Ewell will start. He won’t, at least not on day one, but if he takes to the weight room and grasps the basics of Elko’s scheme, Ewell could see his snaps increase as the season moves along.

Tillery logged 12 tackles in 12 games, including two tackles for loss, in his freshman season of 2015. If Ewell could exceed those figures, that would be a good start. Certainly, Elko and Kelly would be even happier if Ewell could approach 20 tackles. That may seem a low number, but consider that in 2016, only 14 Irish defenders made more than 20 tackles, including four defensive linemen. If Ewell were to reach that (arbitrary) threshold, it would be as much a sign of him earning playing time as it would be of him excelling in that playing time.

DOWN THE ROAD
Ewell projects as Notre Dame’s defensive tackle of the future. That probably will not be 2017, but with Cage departing following the season—probably along with seniors Pete Mokwuah and Jonathan Bonner even though each would have one more year of eligibility (Bonner is more likely to stick around than Mokwuah)—Ewell will have the chance to earn a frontline role in the spring of 2018.


2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 96 Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle

Getty Images
18 Comments

Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3 ½, 326 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Senior with two years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season
Depth chart: Mokwuah remains a ways down the depth chart, behind at least senior Jonathan Bonner and junior Micah Dew-Treadway. If junior Elijah Taylor returns from a LisFranc fracture without complication, he will also presumably be ahead of Mokwuah when it comes to playing time.
Recruiting: A consensus three-star, Mokwuah committed to Notre Dame late in the recruiting cycle as part of an Irish attempt, led by then-newly-hired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, to shore up the interior of Notre Dame’s defensive line in that class. Mokwuah had previously been committed to Rutgers.

CAREER TO DATE
Mokwuah has totaled one tackle in six career games, notching a takedown against Miami last season. He preserved a year of eligibility his freshman season, appeared in two games in 2015 (Texas, Massachusetts) and four last year.

QUOTE(S)
Any mention of Mokwuah has come while discussing contingency plans. When former Irish defensive lineman Tony Springmann suffered a career-ending injury before the 2014 season, Mokwuah’s was one of the names Irish coach Brian Kelly cited when figuring out how to overcome the loss of the senior Springmann.

“We have, if you count [former Notre Dame lineman Jarron] Jones, Mokwuah and [senior Daniel] Cage, three guys that are over 300 pounds,” Kelly said. “In my conversations with [former Irish strength and conditioning coach Paul] Longo and particular with Cage and Mokwuah, their volume is ahead of any of the freshmen that we have had at that position since we have come here.

“Their ability to go in and take reps immediately because they are so strong, as well. Both of them physically are able to compete right away. We’ll have to see what their football ability brings, but from a work volume standpoint and from a strength standpoint, and obviously their size, we feel pretty good at that position right now.”

Two years later, toward the end of last season, Kelly was asked about the defensive line’s future once Jarron Jones graduated. Having already acknowledged Cage, Kelly once again turned to Mokwuah.

“We’ve got some guys that are becoming much more seasoned,” Kelly said. “Pete Mokwuah, [junior] Brandon Tiassum, those guys in particular have done a nice job, have come along to the point where we believe that their time is really close.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO*
Finding a niche in 2016 would be a great step forward for Mokwuah. Ultimately, that could be five or ten snaps a game, allowing Jones and Cage to stay fresh. But it could be just being ready to be the ‘Next Man In,’ knowing that the Irish defense desperately needs to establish some type of productive rotation to allow their young talent a chance to flourish at the point of attack.

“Three seasons into his time in South Bend, Mokwuah should be ready to compete physically. It’s also his second year working with Keith Gilmore. But nose guard is a difficult depth chart to crack, and Mokwuah’s chances of seeing the field might hinge on the rotation established to take the load off of Jerry Tillery at three-technique.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Mokwuah may have missed his chance to make an impact on Notre Dame’s defensive front. His size remains tantalizing, but that alone will not raise Mokwuah from fourth on the depth chart to worthwhile playing time. For that matter, incoming freshmen Darnell Ewell, Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa will fit somewhere in the mix. (Tagovailoa-Amosa is the most likely to have direct competition with this piece’s subject.) They might not pass Mokwuah, but their mere presence will take away from his opportunities to impress in practice.

Despite Kelly’s repeated mentions of Mokwauh’s progress and physical presence, the ability to hold the point of attack has not been seen much on the field. The fact that Kelly did not cite Mokwuah this spring only underscores the unlikelihood of the senior making an impact in 2017.

DOWN THE ROAD
The Irish will already struggle to sign more than 20 recruits in the class of 2018—not because the prospects won’t sign, but because Notre Dame will not have the scholarships to offer. Though he will have a fifth year of eligibility, it is highly unlikely the Irish coaching staff invites Mokwuah back for the 2018 season. If he graduates, he obviously could then transfer to another school and play from the outset thanks to the NCAA’s stance on graduate transfers.


*By no means is the “What Keith Arnold projected a year ago” section intended to showcase what Keith did or did not get right. It is intended to provide further context of how a player has performed compared to reasonable expectations.

2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 97 Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle

Rivals.com
8 Comments

Listed Measurements: 6-foot-4, 299 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Junior with three years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season
Depth chart: Dew-Treadway moved up the spring depth chart when junior Elijah Taylor suffered a LisFranc fracture. If Taylor returns fully healthy this fall, he will likely supplant Dew-Treadway as the primary backup behind senior Jonathan Bonner. LisFranc injuries are notoriously fickle, though—logically such should be expected when a foot is counted on to support 300 pounds. If Taylor is at all limited, Dew-Treadway should have the chance to log some competitive snaps. He will be in a mix with senior Pete Mokwuah and junior Brandon Tiassum for that role.
Recruiting: A consensus three-star, Dew-Treadway’s size alone made him a notable recruit. If his size could be developed with time in a college weight room, the Irish coaches may have found a contributing piece. That time in a college weight room began a semester early with Dew-Treadway enrolling in the spring of 2015.

CAREER TO DATE
Dew-Treadway has not appeared in a game for Notre Dame. He preserved a year of eligibility his freshman season, certainly understandable considering the 2015 Irish defensive line featured Sheldon Day, Romeo Okwara and Isaac Rochell, in addition to the litany of usual suspects.

Dew-Treadway suffered a foot fracture before the 2016 season.

QUOTE(S)
When Taylor went down early in spring, Irish coach Brian Kelly needed to figure out who would fill in on the defensive interior if for no other reason than to successfully field the remaining practices. Obviously, those results could indicate a pattern for the fall.

Kelly’s first instinct was Dew-Treadway.

“Micah Dew-Treadway has had a really good offseason for us,” Kelly said. “Changed his body, has been doing a really good job in all facets. In the class room, weight room and he’s somebody that had been ascending anyway prior to the injury. … Micah has shown some real promise over the past couple months.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO*
Brian Kelly’s mid-June comments about Jarron Jones might actually help Dew-Treadway see the field. Because if the optimum amount of snaps for Jones is 35, that means there’s about 20 more for some lineman not named Daniel Cage or Jerry Tillery, and it’s anybody’s guess who will fill those snaps.

“I tend to think those snaps could go to Jon Bonner first. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Dew-Treadway finds his way into those second-team developmental snaps this year, moving ahead of a veteran like Peter Mokwuah or converted offensive lineman John Montelus, with athleticism a key factor in all of this.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Sometimes a player’s size alone gets him on the field. That could be the case with Dew-Treadway this season. Notre Dame simply does not have many other 300-pound options to clog the middle. That was essentially the reasoning behind recruiting the raw prospect.

Kelly mentioned Dew-Treadway’s work in the weight room. If that work is legitimate—and new director of football performance Matt Balis is able to get the most out of it—then Dew-Treadway’s tangible skills may be catching up to his size. One may be tempted to include the adverb finally in that previous sentence, but that would not be fair to Dew-Treadway. It made sense to spend his freshman campaign on the sidelines, and a foot fracture robbed him of the chance to get a handful of snaps in each game last season.

If he does not see notable action this year, such a disappointed syntax would be quickly appropriate. Dew-Treadway should be able to, at least, fill the middle for 10 snaps a game and total a couple tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. More than that would be a welcome gift for defensive coordinator Mike Elko. By no means has Bonner excelled so much that the opening is not there for Dew-Treadway to push for more opportunity.

DOWN THE ROAD
If that “at least” scenario plays out, Dew-Treadway will have established a strong base for the 2018 season and, if offered a fifth year, 2019, as well. Of all the names mentioned above, only Taylor and Tiassum would also have possible eligibility in 2019. Tillery will still be around in 2018, along with the possibilities of Bonner and Mokwuah.

Obviously recruits will join the ranks, but Dew-Treadway can stake a claim to future playing time if he takes advantage of available chances in 2017.


*By no means is the “What Keith Arnold projected a year ago” section intended to showcase what Keith did or did not get right. It is intended to provide further context of how a player has performed compared to reasonable expectations.

2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 98 Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end

Getty Images
9 Comments

Listed Measurements: 6-foot-4, 252 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Senior with 2017 as his last year of eligibility barring injury
Depth chart: Trumbetti and classmate Jay Hayes split first-team reps at the strongside defensive end position throughout spring. By the end, it seemed Hayes had the edge with sophomore Khalid Kareem behind the two.
Recruiting: Rivals.com pegged Trumbetti as a three-star but the other recruiting services gave him a four-star profile. The Under Armour All-American enrolled a semester early as a freshman.

CAREER TO DATE
Trumbetti has played in 36 games in his Irish career, not seeing action only against Purdue his freshman year (concussion) and Georgia Tech his sophomore season (presumably due to scheme adjusting for Tech’s triple-option attack.) His 26 tackles last year were a career high, compared to 21 and 16 his first two seasons, respectively, but he did not match his playmaking stats from years before.

2014: 21 tackles including 5.5 for loss and one sack; also credited with five quarterback hurries
2015: 16 tackles including 2.5 for loss and one sack; also credited with six quarterback hurries
2016: 26 tackles including 0.5 for loss and no sacks; also credited with three quarterback hurries

QUOTE(S)

Irish coach Brian Kelly opened spring practice by describing the strongside position as it should appear in defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s approach.

“He’s going to be a guy that has got to hold the point,” Kelly said. “He’s going to be more physical at the point of attack.”

For that matter, Kelly then proceeded to point to a difference in Trumbetti’s offseason that should play into that particular role.

“We think he’s in a stronger position to handle the rigors of that position, in particular that strongside,” Kelly said. “When he was holding his weight in the manner we needed him to, that would have been more of a concern, but we feel really good about where he is right now.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO*
There is a role in this defense for Trumbetti—maybe even a starting job if Jay Hayes can’t return quickly from his injured ankle. That open window should be one Trumbetti jumps through without reservation, because young guys like Daelin Hayes are on the horizon and may have already passed him when it comes to a pure pass rusher.

“So much of this evaluation is based on opportunity and only Trumbetti can truly control that. I think Notre Dame is going to get to the quarterback much better this season than last, and if they do it’ll be Trumbetti playing a supporting role. Sign me up for four sacks and hopefully getting to a half-dozen plays behind the line of scrimmage.”

2017 OUTLOOK
To some extent, Trumbetti’s failure to meet those metrics of success Keith set a year ago should be attributed to a bigger picture than simply Trumbetti not making the plays. Assuredly, Trumbetti did not make the plays, but nobody did along Notre Dame’s defensive front. What percentage of that lackluster performance traces to the scheme and what percentage belongs at the feet of the individuals?

That question is not answerable, but it should at least be acknowledged here. The drop in Trumbetti’s plays behind the line of scrimmage from his first two seasons to his junior campaign shows regression on multiple fronts. If he could return to creating as much pressure as he did his freshman season, Elko and Kelly would probably be pleased. Five additional takedowns behind the line of scrimmage should be not scoffed at.

That would not likely push Trumbetti past Jay Hayes for that majority of snaps, though. That is where Kelly’s mention of Trumbetti’s weight is an intriguing one. Kelly volunteered that tidbit. The question was not what can Trumbetti do better or even what do the coaches expect from him. The question was about the strongside position in general, yet Kelly brought up the Irish strength and conditioning program.

If Trumbetti is more physically-prepared to hold the point of attack, that will serve as a tangible mark of progress in Notre Dame’s conditioning. At that point, perhaps Trumbetti and Hayes can spell each other, allowing for a rested rush at all times. Or, maybe the 6-foot-3 ½, 281-pound Hayes moves inside to shore up the Irish interior.

DOWN THE ROAD
This is it for Trumbetti. Now or never. If he has a strong senior season—let’s define strong as 35-plus tackles, multiple sacks and at least six tackles for loss, otherwise known as more than he recorded in his freshman season—then Trumbetti’s career at Notre Dame will be looked at fondly. He has represented the school well and would be seen as an example of growth on the field over a four-year career. Some time spent around an NFL franchise in rookie camps would not be an outlandish concept.

If Trumbetti’s downward trend continues, then he’ll be an unfortunate example of a highly-touted recruit not panning out, something the Irish defensive line cannot much afford.


*By no means is the “What Keith Arnold projected a year ago” section intended to showcase what Keith did or did not get right. It is intended to provide further context of how a player has performed compared to reasonable expectations.

2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 99 Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle

Getty Images
15 Comments

Listed Measurements: 6-foot-6 ½, 308 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Junior with a total of two seasons of eligibility remaining
Depth chart: Tillery projects as a starter at defensive tackle with senior Daniel Cage behind him.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star, Tillery was recruited as an offensive tackle in large part due to his length.

CAREER TO DATE
Tillery has totaled 49 tackles in his first two seasons, including 37 last year with three for loss. He started last season’s first 11 games.

Both of Tillery’s freshman and sophomore seasons ended prematurely, neither due to injury. A violation of team rules led to Tillery being suspended for the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day 2016, and Irish coach Brian Kelly removed Tillery from the fourth quarter in the 2016 season finale against USC after Tillery received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for seemingly-intentionally stepping on the foot of a Trojan offensive lineman after a play. Earlier replays also showed Tillery making contact with a USC running back’s head after the back took a hit from Notre Dame safety Nicco Fertitta. Some would call Tillery’s contact with his foot a kick, others a nudge. Either way, that action went unnoticed by the officials.

QUOTE(S)
As it pertains to the USC incidents, after the loss Kelly told the media he did not see the plays, but did speak with Tillery.

“Accountability is built within any program,” Kelly said. “Jerry has to be accountable for his actions every single day. Jerry is a good kid, and if he made a mistake, we’ll hold him accountable for that mistake.”

More recently, Kelly complemented Tillery’s spring practice performance.

“We’re developing some consistency along the defensive line across the board where we’re seeing consistent play with Jerry Tillery. This spring was a good one for Jerry. We saw much more consistency from him.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO*
I’m expecting a big step forward this season from Tillery, who won’t explode like Tuitt, but should get into the high single-digits for TFLs and find a way to impact the game more as a three-technique rather than a nose tackle. With the opportunity for a high snap count as the team’s only legitimate option to replace Sheldon Day, Tillery needs to learn how to play fast and wreak havoc, as it’s no longer enough to just hold up at the point of attack.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Tillery did not meet Keith’s description of success last year. In fact, Tillery fell far short by most any metric. If anyone filled the void left by Day, it was Isaac Rochell. Now Rochell is gone, and so is Jarron Jones. For Notre Dame to have success this season, Tillery will need to fill those voids both on and off the field.

Of the remaining Irish defensive linemen, Tillery is considered a veteran. Both seniors Andrew Trumbetti and Daniel Cage have logged more games, but Tillery might actually have a higher snap count. (No, no one needs to go review three years of games and count. The point is, it’s possible. Tillery has as much experience, if not more, than those two elders.)

However, Tillery does not have a track record of acting like a leader needs to. More than increasing his tackles for loss tally, Notre Dame will need Tillery to show a young positional group how to proceed.

Then, obviously, an increase in tackles for loss and overall tackles would be much appreciated by defensive coordinator Mike Elko. Frankly, both should come just from sheer opportunity available in the middle. For context, Jones finished the 2016 season with 45 tackles including 11 for loss. If there is any archetype for Tillery, it was the 6-foot-5 ½, 315-pound Jones. Admittedly, Tillery does not have the arm length of Jones, but very few do. Most of them end up on the hardwood, not the gridiron.

By the end of his Notre Dame career, Jones went from a fun-loving definition of potential to a leader who excelled individually in concentrated bursts.

DOWN THE ROAD
Why bring up the end of Jones’ Irish career like that time could be coming for the junior Tillery? Because it could be. Mock drafts already indicate he could be an NFL Draft pick next spring. If Tillery does seriously consider entering the draft with a year of eligibility remaining, it is a good sign for this coming season’s prospects. Those mock drafts project Tillery’s potential. NFL front offices will want to see some of that potential fulfilled before investing in an interior lineman.


*By no means is the “What Keith Arnold projected a year ago” section intended to showcase what Keith did or did not get right. It is intended to provide further context of how a player has performed compared to reasonable expectations.

Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2