The last decade of Notre Dame football recruiting and player development illustrates an intriguing development in the realm of player redshirts.
That is, while future starting offensive linemen, tight ends, and quarterbacks continue to sit more often than not as rookies, the preponderance of prospects at wide receiver, running back, in the defensive backfield and along the defensive front more often than not – at least those that become successful – find freshmen year playing time.
So while Kapron Lewis-Moore (2008), Louis Nix (2010), and Jarron Jones (2012) carry the torch for recent scout team freshmen that later emerged as top tier Irish starters, the other side of the coin – those that contribute as freshmen defensive linemen from the outset – reads as a Who’s Who at the position for the program over the last 10 seasons:
Pat Kuntz (2005), Ian Williams (2007), Ethan Johnson (2008), Kona Schwenke (2010), Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt (2011), Sheldon Day (2012), Isaac Rochell (2013), Andrew Trumbetti (2014), and most recently, Jerry Tillery last fall.
That brings us to the third of three redshirt-freshmen defensive linemen from the 2015 class previewed this summer on Irish Illustrated, Indianapolis Park Tudor High School product, Brandon Tiassum, next in our A-to-Z preview of Notre Dame’s 2016 roster.
As with chief competitors John Montelus and Pete Mokwuah, Tiassum’s best hope for competitive game action is as the third nose tackle – one consistent enough during practice week to warrant a few snaps each Saturday to complement co-starters Jarron Jones and Daniel Cage inside.
Should he show well but not enough to take snaps from the solid nose tackle duo, Tiassum could potentially slide into a backup role at the wide open defensive tackle (three-technique) spot vacated by star senior Sheldon Day.
Finishing the fall where he starts it, as the squad’s fifth string nose tackle, relegated to another season on the scout team.
A redshirt rookie season for Tiassum, plus defensive line classmates Elijah Taylor and Micah Dew-Treadway was expected…a season on the sidelines as a sophomore would be a key indicator that one among that trio likely faces the fate of being “recruited over” in future cycles.
The trifecta named above, plus Montelus, Mokwuah, and backups Jonathan Bonner and (potential starter) Jay Hayes have combined for two tackles in their collegiate careers. In other words, there might be a glut of unproven talent, but if you can play the game, you probably should find your way to the field this fall.
It’s fair to surmise that whoever among that collection of seven does not play this season is unlikely to contribute in the future, either.
Tiassum could go the route of Brandon Newman (2008) and Tyler Stockton (2009) or follow the path of the aforementioned Jones, a player NO ONE at the program thought much of entering his second season in South Bend.
Clearly it’s too soon to tell, but a realistic goal would be a career arc that follows that of Justin Utupo, a 2010 defensive end prospect that moved all over the front seven (including inside linebacker) before settling in at defensive tackle as a fifth year senior in 2014 and providing not only quality play off the bench, but a couple starting nods.
Utupo is the current regime’s poster child for a fifth year player that blossomed after previously failing to carve a niche – something to shoot for regarding at least five of Notre Dame’s current defensive linemen.
DEVELOPMENT VS. RECRUITING RANKING
Tiassum placed 66th among 2015 defensive tackle prospects per Scout.com, coming in as a three-star pledge. He earned his highest ranking from 24/7 as the No. 29 overall defensive tackle and was the nation’s 44th ranked offensive guard prospect per ESPN.
Though 2016 could offer a portent, 2017-18 will ultimately tell the tale of Tiassum’s stay in South Bend.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“Brandon is at nose tackle.” – Defensive line coach Keith Gilmore, the only utterance of Tiassum’s name this spring.