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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 55 Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury

Listed Measurements: 6-foot-1 ⅜, 308 pounds.2019-20 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Franklin still has all four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.Depth chart: If healthy, Franklin would be the backup nose tackle to junior Kurt Hinish. If that health had included a strong spring, the starting gig may even be considered a timeshare. Instead, Franklin is presumably on the third-string behind early-enrolled freshman Jacob Lacey, who is healthy and did have a strong spring.Recruiting: A consensus three-star prospect, Franklin chose Notre Dame over finalists Wisconsin and nearby Virginia and Virginia Tech, being from neighboring Maryland, himself. The No. 34 defensive tackle in the class, per, Franklin received offers from more than half the ACC.

Franklin looked set to contribute as the third tackle in a three-tackle rotation last season, eating up snaps in blowouts, but instead tore his quad on his fifth play in his debut at Wake Forest.

For someone who has barely seen the field and missed this spring practice, Franklin has certainly left an impression.

“Ja’Mion really was a guy that was able to play for us,” Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea said in early March. “In the game that he got hurt, was the Wake Forest game, he was coming along. He’s going to have a road back. It’s not going to be seamless, but he has the ability to help, so we’ll expect him to come back in after that.”

After watching the other tackles this spring, head coach Brian Kelly also still had Franklin’s potential in mind.

“I really think Ja’Mion showed us some things last year that is still in our recent memory about what he can do at that [nose] position,” Kelly said following the Blue-Gold Game.

“Franklin’s highlights show an adeptness at stopping the run and holding the point of attack, otherwise known as the primary duties of a nose tackle. He should remain there for the long haul. With (Jonathan) Bonner gone after this season, Franklin stands behind only Hinish in the depth chart moving forward, on equal footing with (Darnell) Ewell.

“Franklin’s chance at bypassing Hinish will be foreshadowed from the outset by how time in a collegiate strength and conditioning program transforms his body. If Franklin becomes 300-plus pounds of mostly muscle, he could offer more of a defensive focal point than the 292-pound Hinish does, especially if Franklin’s nimble feet continue to match Hinish’s.”

Allow this additional copy-and-paste from last summer’s submission, as it is a storyline deserving more attention than it has received, one that may drift into the background due to Franklin’s lost season. The focus will now be on his injury recovery, not on what preceded it.

“In recruiting day praise of Franklin, Irish coaches focused on two aspects of Franklin’s profile: His ability to shed blocks thanks to quick hands and an explosive first step, as well as his general demeanor and personality. Franklin’s father was diagnosed with a form of leukemia in the fall, yet Franklin continued to excel in his senior season while handling a myriad of familial duties. In mid-January, he donated stem cells to help his father combat the effects of chemotherapy.

“‘He’s been dealing with the mental part of it with his family,’ defensive line coach Mike Elston said on National Signing Day. ‘He’s shown that mental toughness, and he has the physical toughness.

“‘… I wanted to add toughness. We’ve been able to change the culture of the defensive line. We’re not there yet, obviously, but we’re changing that culture. Identifying Ja’Mion very early as a guy that is going to add to that and improve that with an aggressiveness and a toughness, he was a marquee get for us because of that.’”

Franklin may not return to the field right away, no matter how good he looks on the beach in the below clip from last week. A quad tendon tear is not an injury behooving a quick recovery. When Notre Dame puts Franklin back on the field, it will not only want to avoid the risk of reinjury, but also count on him to hold his own. Taking a few weeks of caution before testing that will not be the worst case of hesitation.

But once healthy, there will be no need to limit Franklin’s appearances to only four; last season was his year of preserved eligibility. As much as Lacey may have impressed this spring, he will likely tire as the season progresses, as most freshmen do. Franklin’s return could help ease those effects.

That may seem a low bar to set for a sophomore on the fringes of the two-deep, but keeping things in perspective after a season-ending injury makes that low bar instead a worthy one.

Hinish is a full two years ahead of both Franklin and Lacey in terms of eligibility. Given Franklin’s injury and Lacey’s inexperience, Hinish should have a firm grip on the primary nose tackle duties through 2020, but then the younger two can form a rotating duo.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center