Notre Dame suffered its first casualty of the spring before its first full contact practice. Brian Kelly announced Wednesday that junior defensive tackle Elijah Taylor was lost for the spring at least with a lisfranc fracture in his foot. The announcement made some news, but didn’t cause too much of a stir among Notre Dame fans today. It should have.
Brian Kelly expressed some optimism about the defensive line on Wednesday stating that Notre Dame was deeper than people thought in the defensive trenches. Name a coach who isn’t optimistic this time of the year. Yes, Notre Dame has a lot of bodies along the defensive line but outside of Daniel Cage and Jerry Tillery those bodies are a whole bunch of question marks.
Even Elijah Taylor was a major question mark heading into this season, but after a strong performance in the season finale against USC, optimism was higher on Taylor than some of his other unproven linemates. With Jerry Tillery anything but a lock to start despite his experience, Taylor had a real chance to challenge for a starting role this spring and fall especially with a new defensive scheme under Mike Elko leveling the playing field.
Elijah Taylor has been considered one of the stronger defensive linemen on the Notre Dame roster since arriving two years ago, but he hadn’t play much until the end of the 2016 season. Against USC, Taylor got an extended audition and showed some promise. A disappointing sophomore season from Tillery lowlighted by a couple of dirty plays in the second half of the USC game had the door open for Taylor to make a move this spring.
While Brian Kelly said that ideally Taylor will be back for fall camp, lisfranc fractures for defensive linemen are notorious for being slow to heal and it is very possible that this thing lingers into the season. Based on some previous lisfranc injuries to Notre Dame players, it shouldn’t shock anyone if Taylor is not 100% for the season opener.
Last summer Justin Brent underwent surgery for a lisfranc fracture and he ended up missing the entire season. Jarron Jones’ recovery from a lisfranc injury in 2014 was also much slower than expected and was said to be tougher to overcome than the MCL injury he encountered in fall camp in 2015.
Door Open for Micah Dew Treadway
With Taylor out indefinitely, the door is now wide open for his classmate Micah Dew Treadway. Last summer MDT was getting some positive reviews from Brian Kelly before suffering his own foot injury that ended up costing him his entire sophomore season. Since Dew Treadway redshirted as a true frosh in 2015, he has yet to play a real down for Notre Dame.
Based on some video that Dew Treadway posted on Twitter earlier this week, it looks like the junior to be has been putting in some work this off-season.
Outside of MDT, look for Jay Hayes and Jonathan Bonner to potentially get some looks inside to provide additional depth as well.
Potential Scott Pagano Transfer Even Bigger Now
If Notre Dame has to start the season without Elijah Taylor, the potential transfer of Scott Pagano becomes even bigger for Notre Dame now. The Irish are one of the finalists for the Clemson graduate transfer and even without the injury to Taylor, they featured one of the more favorable depth chart situations for Pagano who is a likely day one starter should he select Notre Dame. That depth chart must look even more appealing to Pagano right about now.
Pagano visited Notre Dame last month but has not finished his other visits yet so it is unclear where Notre Dame stands in their “recruitment” of one of the biggest prizes in the graduate transfer market this off-season.
Losing any defensive linemen is not ideal for Notre Dame right now, but losing one who appeared to have potential for a breakthrough season is even more disappointing at this point. Hopefully the injury is quick to heal and he is able to get back into the mix for the season, but at this point Notre Dame needs to prepare as though Taylor won’t be available when Temple comes to town.