Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 58 Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3, 280 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Junior with three years of eligibility remaining including 2017
Depth chart: A LisFranc fracture early in spring practice clouds Taylor’s placement on the depth chart. Before the injury, he was backing up senior Jonathan Bonner at defensive tackle, perhaps getting ready to challenge for that starting position. If he returns fully healthy, Taylor will now compete with junior Micah Dew-Treadway for that support role.
Recruiting: A rivals.com three-star recruit, Taylor boasted an offer sheet typical a more-heralded prospect, including the likes of Florida State, Michigan State and Miami. The No. 39 defensive tackle in the class per rivals, Notre Dame’s most serious competition for Taylor’s commitment came from Ohio State.
CAREER TO DATE
Taylor preserved a year of eligibility in 2015. Last season, he saw action in four games, including the final three. Now-senior Daniel Cage missed the last four games of the year, creating a need for another big body on the defensive interior, hence an increase in action for Taylor.
With Cage out, Taylor recorded his first career tackles in the first half against USC, notching three takedowns including one for a loss.
Taylor’s LisFranc injury changed the trajectory of his spring from contending for playing time to worrying about rehab. Irish coach Brian Kelly was optimistic about Taylor’s chances at being ready for fall camp.
“Typical LisFranc fractures, we’ve had good success with their repairs,” Kelly said in March. “[Taylor] got stepped on in the second practice. We’ll be able to train around the injury. Full range of motion moving around and doing things in June. Probably full clearance sometime in July.”
Per the South Bend Tribune’s Mike Vorel, Kelly pushed that timeline back toward August earlier this week while speaking at The Kelly Cares Foundation’s annual golf invite. Kelly still expects Taylor to be ready for the start of camp in August, though.
WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“If Taylor can find his way into the rotation, it’s a successful season. Because if Jarron Jones stays motivated and Daniel Cage can shake off a few training camp bumps and bruises, this will be a stout interior.
“The defensive tackle group is lacking guys who can step in for Sheldon Day. [Current junior] Jerry Tillery is going to have first crack at that and Jon Bonner is still an option as a guy who hasn’t shown much yet.
“I think Taylor is a role player at best — mainly in the trenches. If he can jump ahead of guys like Bonner and [senior] Pete Mokwuah, he’ll be a two-deep player. I’d call that a successful season as a redshirt freshman.”
The timing of all injuries is unfortunate, but Taylor’s LisFranc fracture truly came at an inopportune time for his career progression. The opportunity was there for Taylor to establish himself as a known presence in the two-deep roster. Instead, he will have to work his way back into the rotation once healthy, and LisFranc fractures can be fickle, despite Kelly’s confidence. Such concerns come with routinely placing 300-plus pounds of force on the intricate bone structure of a foot.
For this exercise, let’s presume Taylor is indeed healthy by the start of August drills. If he can match Dew-Treadway, Taylor will likely be given the edge by the coaching staff partly in deference to the time lost to injury and partly due to projecting a higher ceiling. At that point, Taylor will be called on plenty to provide relief for Bonner, who while not undersized for the defensive interior, is far from a looming force at 6-foot-3 ½ and 284 listed pounds.
Incoming freshmen Darnell Ewell and Kurt Hinish will add to the defensive tackle depth this spring, and unlike most freshmen, they will have a chance at playing time due to the unproven and shallow nature of the position group as is. Ewell, especially, could force the issue. While he is more likely to line up behind Tillery on the depth chart, an additional capable body will impact the playing time of everyone in the mix.
DOWN THE ROAD
Cage will be out of eligibility following this season. Tillery will likely have an NFL Draft decision to make. While the Irish would assuredly prefer he returns, if he went it would create ample opportunity for Taylor—and Dew-Treadway and, even more so, Ewell and Hinish.
Of the Dew-Treadway/Taylor/classmate Brandon Tiassum grouping, Taylor may have the clearest path to capitalizing on that experience vacuum in the future. He needs to get healthy first, obviously.
2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2 (May 12)
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle
No. 95 (theoretically): Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 94 (theoretically): Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92 (theoretically): Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90 (theoretically): Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87 (theoretically): Jafar Armstrong, receiver
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84 (theoretically): Michael Young, receiver
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 82: Nic Weishar, tight end
No. 81: Miles Boykin, receiver
No. 80: Durham Smythe, tight end
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right tackle
No. 77: Brandon Tiassum, defensive tackle
No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right tackle
No. 73: (theoretically) Josh Lugg, offensive tackle
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle
No. 71: Alex Bars, offensive lineman
No. 70: Hunter Bivin, offensive lineman
No. 69: Aaron Banks, offensive lineman
No. 68: Mike McGlinchey, left tackle
No. 67: Jimmy Byrne, offensive lineman
No. 65: (theoretically) Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman