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Notre Dame Defense Needs The 2018 Recruiting Class To Grow Up Fast

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Notre Dame put one of the nation’s premier defenses on the field in 2018, but several key members of that unit are gone.

All-American defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, linebackers Drue Tranquill and Te’von Coney, and nose tackle Jonathan Bonner all ran out of eligibility. All-American cornerback Julian Love bypassed his senior season to enter his name into the 2019 NFL Draft.

Notre Dame will have to replace 325 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks, 26 pass break ups, five fumble recoveries and three fumble recoveries from its 2018 defense. The career numbers are even more staggering.

If you look at the players competing at the positions left open by the departed standouts, the 2018 recruiting class is going to have a major say on how quickly Notre Dame can replace the lost production, and if it cam remain a top defense.

The group will have to grow up quickly.


Tillery leaves behind a massive void in production, taking with him his 10.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks and 48 quarterback pressures. His pressures ranked third nationally among defensive tackles and his eight sacks ranked fourth. The rest of the defensive tackles on the roster combined for just four tackles for loss, two sacks and 18 quarterback pressures.

Tillery’s ability to impact the game up the middle was a key to Notre Dame’s success in 2018, and finding ways to get disruptions from inside in 2019 will be just as important.

Replacing Tillery’s production and presence will require a group effort. Everyone at defensive tackle must step up next season, but the one player with the most talent and the most potential to one day match Tillery’s level of dominance is rising sophomore Jayson Ademilola.

Ademilola was Notre Dame’s best run defender on a per-snap basis, racking up 10 run stops on just 94 run snaps. He has outstanding quickness and fast hands, but as a freshman he lacked ideal size and strength, and while advanced for a freshman, his technique also still needs work.

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