Brian Kelly has been telling anyone who will listen this spring that Notre Dame has more talent on the defensive line than anyone gives them credit for. No one has really believed him. After Scott Pagano eliminated Notre Dame from consideration for his graduate transfer, we’re all about to find out.
After almost two months of speculation, Pagano told the South Bend Tribune that he will be deciding between Oklahoma and Oregon later this week.
Ever since Scott Pagano announced Notre Dame was one of the finalists for his final year of eligibility and visited Notre Dame last month, Notre Dame fans have hypothesized how big of an impact he could have for a Notre Dame defensive line deep with bodies, but short on experience and impact players.
Had Pagano decided to attend to Notre Dame for his 5th season, there is little question that he could have been a starter. That won’t be happening, however, and now Notre Dame will head into the season with questionable depth.
Does Jerry Tillery Stay at Nose Tackle?
So far this spring rising junior Jerry Tillery has been running as the first team nose tackle. The thought was, however, that Tillery could play the three technique if Pagano came to Notre Dame. Tillery could still move to the three technique if/when Daniel Cage is back in top shape after his missed time as well.
If Tillery stays at nose tackle, Jonathan Bonner could be the opening day starter at defensive tackle with Elijah Taylor out at least thrugh the spring with a Lisfranc injury. Kelly has spoken very highly of rising junior Micah Dew-Tradway who has been running as the 2nd team DT as well.
Brandon Tiassum will be in the mix for snaps at defensive tackle as will rising senior Pete Mokwuah at nose tackle.
Will Darnell Ewell Play this Fall?
One less talented, experience defensive lineman on the depth chart could open the door for playing time for incoming freshman Darnell Ewell this fall as well. Ewell has been pegged as a potential early impact freshman by many since he committed to Notre Dame.
It’s never a good thing to count on a true freshman at an interior defensive line position, but Notre Dame might have to call on Ewell for a few snaps a game this fall unless some players who haven’t seen much playing time to this point in their careers improve over the next few months.
Landing Scott Pagano would have been a huge addition for Notre Dame and for a while it looked like the Irish had as good of a chance as anyone at adding the former Clemson lineman to their roster. It’s not the end of the world but given all of the questions Notre Dame has on the defensive line it certainly would have been a boost for a unit where Notre Dame is still searching for many answers.