Listed Measurements: 6-foot-2 ½, 286 pounds
2020-21 year, eligibility: A senior, Tagovailoa-Amosa will have one more season of eligibility remaining after this year, the result of breaking his foot in the first game of 2018. The first season of the NCAA’s four-game eligibility allowance, Tagovailoa-Amosa was able to return for the Playoff semifinal against Clemson, making two tackles, without burning a full year of his future.
Depth chart: Tagovailoa-Amosa should start as the three-technique tackle, able to both hold a point of attack as well as use his underrated length to create chaos in the backfield. He will not have to carry that burden alone, though, just as he didn’t last season, thanks to the growing promise of junior Jayson Ademilola.
Recruiting: The final piece of the recruiting class of 2017, when the three-star prospect chose Notre Dame over USC, Tagovailoa-Amosa is not alone as a commit from that National Signing Day now serving as a building block of the Irish defense, joined by rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
CAREER TO DATE
While that broken foot proved the sound logic behind the NCAA’s eligibility leniency, it also stalled what has otherwise been a linear progression for Tagovailoa-Amosa. He arrived as a needed backup to Jerry Tillery and filled that role ably with 12 tackles as a freshman, including 1.5 for loss. Expectations looked for Tagovailoa-Amosa to build on that as a sophomore, but such as football goes.
He took 477 snaps last season, compared to 238 for Ademilola, and continued to be reliable along the defensive interior, aside from missing the regular-season finale with a mild foot sprain.
2017: 12 tackles with 1.5 for loss in 13 games
2018: 2 tackles in two games bookending a season lost to a broken right foot.
2019: 22 tackles with 2.5 for loss in 12 games and a 48-yard fumble return against Virginia that ended seven yards short of the end zone.
LET’S REMEMBER THAT FUMBLE RETURN
Tagovailoa-Amosa is one of the more joyful players on Notre Dame’s roster. Add that natural disposition to the glee that comes with a defensive tackle seeing nothing between him and the end zone, and you end up with a Hawaiian holding court after a 35-20 October victory.
“That’s the dream right there,” Tagovailoa-Amosa said then. But before long, he turned reflective when discussing his lost 2018 and the difficulty of staying close enough to football shape to get back on the field in the College Football Playoff.
“It challenges your mind,” he said. “There’s a point in time where you start to think selfishly and that’s the worst thing that can happen for you. For me, surrounded by brothers who know that things like that can affect someone, all they did was surround me with love.”
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That love did come with a touch of doubt, though. That fumble he recovered was forced by Jamir Jones. When Jones saw Tagovailoa-Amosa running down the field, he couldn’t fathom why. It took him a beat to realize his teammate had scooped the loose ball with intentions of scoring. Jones’ brief delay allowed Cavaliers quarterback Bryce Perkins to track down Tagovailoa-Amosa.
“Sad we couldn’t get him into the end zone,” Jones said then, sincere though smiling.
MYRON TAGOVAILOA-AMOSA SNATCHES IT TO SET UP THE IRISH FOR A TD! pic.twitter.com/EJd2D4kVir
— Notre Dame on NBC (@NDonNBC) September 28, 2019
Entering 2019, the greatest concern with Tagovailoa-Amosa was his durability — not so much in that he was an injury risk, but that he had lost a year of fitness before heading into a starting role.
“He’s great, he’s coming on,” Irish defensive line coach Mike Elston said in August. “He needs snaps in the games. He’s done a really nice job in practice and his next step, his next development, is going to be getting game snaps, which he already has, but getting 6-, 7-, 800 snaps in a season to sharpen the ax, as coach (Brian) Kelly says.”
Tagovailoa-Amosa did not come close to those numbers; even if he had played at Stanford, the total snap count would not have much exceeded 520. But that’s the luxury provided by a two-deep containing two starter-quality players.
WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“Losing 2018 lowers expectations for Tagovailoa-Amosa entering 2019, but the necessity of his success remains vital for Notre Dame’s defense. Even if he does not approach Tillery’s numbers from last season — 30 tackles with 10.5 for loss, including eight sacks — Tagovailoa-Amosa will need to cause some mayhem to complement the dangerous Irish ends.”
Tagovailoa-Amosa and Ademilola’s playing time split Will Likely trend more and more toward 50/50. The former has a touch more size and a lower center of gravity; the latter is a bit more agile with truer pass-rushing skills. Frankly, they should complement each other more than anything else.
If that means Tagovailoa-Amosa’s stats have already peaked with last year’s 22 tackles, that is not inherently a bad thing, particularly if he can add some of his six quarterback hurries to his half a sack.
DOWN THE ROAD
Both Tagoviloa-Amosa and Ademilola having two more seasons of eligibility makes life difficult for sophomore Howard Cross and early-enrolled freshman Rylie Mills. That is to say, Notre Dame is well set at defensive tackle through 2021.