Ranking Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football’s 25 Most Important Players In 2020: No. 16, DT Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa
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Notre Dame’s 25 Most Important Players: No. 16, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa

Over the next month, BlueandGold.com will feature a countdown of the 25 most pivotal figures counted on to help lead Notre Dame back to the College Football Playoff in 2020.

This is not necessarily about who is the best player or the top pro prospect. It’s more along the lines of individuals that need to either emerge, remain a centerpiece or significantly elevate their production to facilitate the Fighting Irish goal of climbing toward championship timber.

Much is based on talent and impact, but a premium is also placed on these questions: 1) If you subtracted this individual from the roster, how much of a setback would it be? 2) If this less proven player emerges and makes an impact, how much does that raise the ceiling (or lower it, if a breakout does not happen as expected)? The players and their ranking were determined by vote from five BlueandGold.com writers.

Tenth in the countdown at No. 16 is senior defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, who collected 49 points in our poll.

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Why Tagovailoa-Amosa Is Ranked 16th

Two years ago while playing the three-technique tackle position, senior Jerry Tillery ended a 22-year drought of a Notre Dame defensive lineman not getting selected in the first round (the previous one had been Renaldo Wynn in the spring of 1997).

While helping the Fighting Irish earn a College Football Playoff berth in 2018, the Associated Press second-team All-American Tillery provided both a push on the pass rush and an anchor against the run, highlighted by eight sacks among his 9.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles (more on “statistical values” later in this analysis).

Meanwhile, his backup, the then sophomore Tagovailoa-Amosa, suffered a fractured foot in the opener versus Michigan and wasn’t able to see game action again until the CFP matchup with Clemson. Consequently, freshman Jayson Ademilola was thrust into the fray, although the disparity in playing time between the warhorse Tillery (664 snaps, or 51 per game) and the greenhorn Ademilola (189) was vast.

Stepping in for the graduated Tillery last year, the production at the position was expected to dip. It did with Tagovailoa-Amosa recording only a half sack and 2.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage — despite defenses having to account for the dynamic senior end tandem of Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara.

There was some consternation expressed by Notre Dame faithful early in the season that the ends were not as productive or game-changing as perhaps expected to be, or as they were a year earlier.

But how much did the absence of Tillery in the lineup affect that dynamic? At 6-2½, 285 pounds, Tagovailoa-Amosa was not as a threatening physical presence as the rangier and stronger 6-7, 305-pound Tillery, who also possessed superior quickness off the snap that opposing offenses had to game-plan around.

Although Notre Dame should remain strong at end this year with the return of fifth-year seniors Daelin Hayes and Ade Ogundeji, it is essential to the front line’s overall success that the interior generate more penetration and plays than last year.

As seniors, Tagovailoa-Amosa and nose tackle Kurt Hinish (No. 25 in our countdown) will be counted on to supply such disruption, while Ademilola and sophomore Jacob Lacey will also vie for a higher snap count.

Notre Dame senior defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa
Tagovailoa-Amosa had the second most snaps (477) along the defensive line last year. (Andris Visockis)

Tagovailoa-Amosa’s Status Entering The Season

He started 12 of the 13 games last season, missing only the regular-season finale at Stanford with an injury before returning for the Camping World Bowl win versus Iowa State.

Rather inconspicuously, Tagovailoa-Amosa had the second most overall snaps along the defensive line last year with 477 (about 40 per contest). Only Kareem with 561 had more.

And therein lies the need to be more impactful at a position that has to be better than 22 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a half sack.

Interestingly, as a junior in 2017 Tillery had 56 tackles, nine stops for loss and 4.5 sacks. The tackle total for him as a senior dropped to 29 (only seven more than Tagovailoa-Amosa last year).

That’s where effectiveness can’t always be necessarily measured by raw data. Tillery impacted the game more with 29 tackles in 2018 than the 56 in 2017, because as the interior anchor for the Irish, opposing offenses were forced to account for him a lot more — and that made the world a little easier for first-time starting ends Kareem and Okwara, among others.

Tagovailoa-Amosa does not possess the size or game-changing skills of Tillery, but he and Ademilola (25 tackles, four stops for loss and no sacks in 2019) should at least be an effective tag-team duo combination over the course of a season.

As a senior with two more years of eligibility remaining, Tagovailoa-Amosa should benefit from the experiences the past three years, and that includes maybe even helping at nose tackle if that is where he is needed. He needs to use that past knowledge to his advantage, or his snap could fall quite a bit.

What Would Be Considered A Successful Individual Season?

Being effective enough to be near the 500-snap range again in 2020, otherwise Ademilola’s time in the lineup could increase.

Neither has the range or size of Tillery, with Tagovailoa-Amosa listed at 286 pounds this spring and Ademilola 279. Notre Dame does not have supreme bulk or size up front, so it will have to be resourceful strategically against the run to compensate for the lack of sheer girth.

No one is likely anticipating the eight sacks Tillery had at the position in 2018 — but the overall pass pressure must be much better than combining for a half sack.

As a freshman in 2017, Tagovailoa-Amosa was one of the top surprises on the team while playing 329 snaps in a reserve role. Highlighting that campaign were his two fourth-and-inches stops in the second half during tight contests against Boston College and North Carolina State that proved to be game-changing plays in blowout wins.

Making several more of those kind of stops to augment relatively consistent and steady play would go a long way toward enhancing the overall line despite graduating Kareem and Okwara.

Behind The Ranking

The top 25 was determined in the same manner as the Associated Press poll. Five BlueandGold.com writers submitted their ballots, and each position on the ballot was given a point value. The top ranking was worth 25 points, No. 2 was worth 24, No. 3 worth 23 and so on down until No. 25, which was worth one point. The players with the 25 highest point totals made the list.

Individual rankings:

Patrick Engel: 11

Lou Somogyi: 19

Mike Singer: 14

Todd Burlage: 13

Andrew Mentock: 24

Mentock on his ranking: “This is largely based on the depth behind him, mainly Ademilola. The defensive tackle position will be loaded in 2020, and, in a pinch, we’ve seen that Lacey also has the potential to perform well there. Even if MTA suffers a near season-ending injury as he did in 2018, defensive tackle should still be one of the better-stocked positions on the defense.

“Also, Ademilola had more total tackles (25) and tackles for loss (four) than MTA had in 2019 while playing fewer snaps. As Ademilola enters his junior season, I actually think he’ll challenge MTA for the starting spot in 2020 and won’t be shocked if he wins it.”

Prior Top 25 Profiles

No. 17: Shaun Crawford

No. 18: Houston Griffith

No. 19: Lawrence Keys III

No. 20: Chris Tyree

No. 21: Aaron Banks

No. 22: Bennett Skowronek

No. 23: Tommy Kraemer

No. 24: Isaiah Pryor

No. 25: Kurt Hinish

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