Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end

Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-2 ½, 282 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A fifth-year senior, Tagovailoa-Amosa will have the option of a sixth year if the Notre Dame coaching staff obliges — or if he chooses to transfer somewhere that will do so — thanks to the universal eligibility waiver during the coronavirus pandemic.
Depth chart: According to Tagovailoa-Amosa, he was always meant to play defensive end, and he always preferred to play defensive end. He just preferred ample portions of Hawaiian food more. Moving to the strong-side/“Big” defensive end spot from the three-technique tackle, Tagovailoa-Amosa is now either the 1A or 1B piece of the rotation along with senior Justin Ademilola.
Recruiting: On National Signing Day way back in February of 2017, fresh off an overhaul of the Irish coaching staff following the 2016 debacle, Tagovailoa-Amosa chose Notre Dame rather than USC. A three-star prospect, his decision that day joined Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah’s, quite the Signing Day haul of two supposedly run-of-the-mill prospects.

CAREER TO DATE
For a middling recruit, Tagovailoa-Amosa surprised by contributing right away. His 12 tackles as a freshman may not jump off the page, but he provided genuine rotational snaps on a defensive interior lacking any semblance of depth.

A broken foot interrupted his 2018, and then he missed one game in 2020 and was limited in two more coming back from it. Tagovailoa-Amosa still played 312 snaps in 2020 (compared to 477 in 2019).

2017: 12 tackles with 1.5 for loss in 13 games.
2018: 2 tackles with 0.5 for loss in two games, the opener and the Playoff loss, as the foot healed in the interim to allow for limited action against Clemson.
2019: 22 tackles with 2.5 for loss, including half a sack, in 12 games. One fumble recovery nearly returned for a touchdown against Virginia.
2020: 17 tackles with 6 for loss, including 2.5 sacks, in 11 games. Two fumble recoveries and one fumble forced.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS

QUOTES
The spring headlines focused on the Irish quarterback competition, but Tagovailoa-Amosa’s move to end warranted just as much attention. In any other year, media observations of spring practices would have focused on his weight loss (15 pounds, according to defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman) and his subsequent quickness coming around the edge.

As head coach Brian Kelly slowly moved from conditional tenses regarding the position switch to confirming it as a full-time move, and as Freeman praised Tagovailoa-Amosa both on and off the field, perhaps the biggest revelation was from the Hawaiian himself.

He had asked defensive line coach Mike Elston if he could get some work on the end this season — and the weight loss actually began a year ago in quarantine, so Tagovailoa-Amosa arguably played the 2020 season underweight for the interior — and when spring began, Elston told Tagovailoa-Amosa it would be a full-time move, a move that never would have been needed if Tagovailoa-Amosa had been more responsible as an 18-year-old.

“My passion was always for defensive end. Nobody knows this story, when I first came in, what happened was, I just came in overweight,” he said last month. “The Hawaiian food, it will get to you. I came in overweight and they just moved me inside. I put my head down, went to work. My last season here, I just wanted a shot, one shot outside.”

So far, Tagovailoa-Amosa has found his new role to be easier than expected.

“To be honest, the shift out to D-end wasn’t that hard. It’s a lot easier, in my opinion, as far as double teams go,” he said. “There’s less double teams. And even if it is, it’s with a tight end, so it’s a lot easier. It’s been a fun transition. Getting on the edge has been a lot easier on the outside than on the inside.”

WHAT WAS SAID A YEAR AGO
“Tagovailoa-Amosa and (Jayson) 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.”

2021 OUTLOOK
This move to defensive end is an intriguing one. These moves almost always trend the other way, from safety to linebacker to end to tackle, as one’s body gets bigger. Tagovailoa-Amosa has long shown the penetrating quickness needed for this work, so it does not defy belief, but it was still more unexpected than anything.

Tagovailoa-Amosa’s role may not be about getting to the quarterback as much as about containment. Using his length to cut off any running backs trying to get around that edge will limit opposing offenses as much as harassing a quarterback will. Not that both should be ruled out.

Statistically, growing on last season’s 2.5 sacks — maybe even rounding that up to 3.5 given Tagovailoa-Amosa was so limited following his missed game against South Florida — would establish this move as a success. In a timeshare with Justin Ademilola, the duo combining for at least eight sacks would further the production of Ade Ogundeji last season (7 sacks) and Khalid Kareem in 2019 (5.5 sacks).

Those defensive lines were plenty productive, arguably Notre Dame’s most consistent position group during this four-year resurgence, so that baseline is hardly an easy one to clear.

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DOWN THE ROAD
Sixth-years in college football are rare, obviously. Shaun Crawford’s 2020 was supposed to be the exception, to such an extent that anyone insisting on asking him about a seventh collegiate season was insulting his accomplishments to date.

But now, they might be common, at least for a few seasons. Tagovailoa-Amosa could be a ripe example, whether that is with the Irish or elsewhere. It would be a surprise if his 2021 is so excellent at a new position that he is suddenly a clear NFL draft pick. Ogundeji and Daelin Hayes put together years of work at defensive end and were fifth-round picks, for example.

Would a second season of work at defensive end change that? Probably not, given a football player’s shelf life, etc., but would that be reason for Tagovailoa-Amosa to spend another year in college working at his craft, particularly if NIL legislation allows him to make enough money to fine-tune his Hawaiian cooking? Perhaps.

Speaking of NIL legislation, some Hawaiian cooking tutorials would be a unique and engaging way to capitalize on that. It would not be worth a fortune, but it would play right into something Tagovailoa-Amosa is already passionate about while educating others about his culture.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen