Jarron Jones (NT) – All commentary regarding Jones is superfluous until the Irish exit Austin on September 3. (Hey, did you know they moved the game to Sunday night?)
Nevertheless, Jones needs to be much better than he was in the spring – and is likely to be after four more months of rehab and recovery following foot (Nov. 2014) and knee (Aug. 2015) surgeries.
Status: Stagnant, and that’s the problem.
Jerry Tillery (DT) – Was the Belle of the Spring 2015 Ball, not to mention Showtime’s A Season with Notre Dame Football over the last calendar year. Now it might be time to focus on playing some football, too, because both defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and position coach Keith Gilmore were less than pleased with his development this spring.
Status: A Step Back – Tillery ranks as one of Notre Dame’s five most important players for 2016 considering his ceiling vs. ground floor potential outputs.
Daniel Cage (NT) – Ideally will provide a 1-2 punch on the nose with Jarron Jones next fall. As of now, he’s the most dependable interior defender on the roster, and while that’s good for Cage, it might not be for the Irish defense.
Elijah Taylor (DT) – Emerged as the No. 2 defensive tackle (three-technique), though that status is largely be default as the Irish lost Sheldon Day to graduation and Jay Hayes to the defensive end position. Will battle with Micah Dew-Treadway for playing time throughout the season.
Micah Dew-Treadway (DT) – No. 3 “three-technique” tackle showed some athleticism in the spring game but is certainly a year away from being a championship-contending football player. Regardless, progress was made after a redshirt-freshman season.
Pete Mokwuah (NT) – Will continually battle to hang on to the third-string nose tackle role due in large part to lingering conditioning issues. The Irish could use five snaps per game from Mokwuah (or any viable No. 3 nose), but that wouldn’t be the case if they lined up to begin the season in May.
Brandon Tiassum (NT) – Fourth-string nose tackle. If he’s clearly No. 3 by the end of August, progress will have been made. When I asked an Irish coach about Tiassum’s progress, the answer given was, “He’s at nose.” Glowing…
John Montelus (NT) – Fifth-string nose tackle and still working through a difficult conversion from the offensive line. Gilmore noted that a large part of the remaining transition is mental, and as such, Montelus hasn’t consistently been able to use his raw power to “dominate” inside.
Status: Stagnant. Sure he was a No. 2 offensive guard last season, but Montelus wasn’t close to the playing field. Upward mobility isn’t out of the question on the nose because A.) the No. 3 role is clearly available for the taking, and B.) the goal line defense could always use an immovable object in the middle.