Irish need D-line growth spurt

Sheldon Day saw enough from Notre Dame’s three red-shirt freshmen on the defensive line to believe Micah Dew-Treadway, Elijah Taylor and Brandon Tiassum can help the cause in ’16.

Sheldon Day made it a habit. Now Notre Dame might benefit from that routine.

Most days last season the two-time captain touched based with some combination of Micah Dew-Treadway, Brandon Tiassum and Elijah Taylor, checking on the three freshman defensive linemen taking red shirts. While that trio had no chance to impact last season, Day wanted to make sure it didn’t get lost on the scout team.

“We kind of had a five-minute session every day where we say what we learned in school today or how’s life going, always trying to check in on the young guys,” Day said. “I definitely felt like I got to know them pretty well this year. Their play, how it’s changed each and every day. The young guys are always trying to get better.”

Ideally, that trio won’t have a major impact on next season, but that assumes Notre Dame’s defensive line stays healthy. It hasn’t worked out that way the past two seasons, including this one when Jarron Jones was lost for the regular season after a preseason MCL injury.

Now Day and his team-leading 15.5 tackles for loss depart, leaving Jones, Jerry Tillery and Daniel Cage to form a three-man rotation in the middle. Where Dew-Treadway, Taylor and Tiassum can best affect the roster this fall is in reserve roles, soaking up reps from the starters.

There’s no question Taylor and Tiassum will work the middle, where Jonathan Bonner and Jay Hayes could also factor. Pete Mokwauh and Jacob Matuska have done little during their times in the program.

“Elijah, I feel like he’s the powerhouse in the group,” Day said. “I feel like he can bull rush anybody, anybody at anytime.”

That makes Taylor, listed at 6-foot-2 ¾, 285 pounds a candidate for the three-technique position Day made his own in Brian VanGorder’s defense. Tiassum, likely bigger than his listed 6-foot-3 ½, 302-pound listed size, should fill in where Jones slots now.

“Brandon Tiassum, he’s gonna hold the middle down,” Day said. “He’s more of a double team guy. He’s working on his pass rush every day, trying to work new moves.”

Dew-Treadway, who enrolled early last winter and lists at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, might fit behind Rochell as a big end if there’s more opportunity there, but it appears the Chicagoland native is trending toward the interior.
 
“Micah Dew, he’s the finesse guy because he’s always trying to work on his pass rush moves,” Day said. “We could be walking in the locker room and I’m walking past him and he’s working on pass rush moves.

“That group is working every day, trying to come along and find out who they are, find their identity.”

While Tillery had a strong freshman season relative to his age, save that Fiesta Bowl suspension, it’s more likely Notre Dame’s red-shirt trio simply takes on reserve roles this fall. Like Bonner after his red shirt, situational reps or garbage time work is ideal for Dew-Treadway, Tiassum and Taylor.

Now Notre Dame just needs a season to go to plan at that position.


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