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Notre Dame loses defensive interior depth with Tagovailoa-Amosa broken foot

Navy v Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 18: Zach Abey #9 of the Navy Midshipmen is hit by Greer Martini #48 and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa #95 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on November 18, 2017 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Notre Dame did not escape its 24-17 victory over No. 14 Michigan unscathed Saturday night. Sophomore defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (above, right) will miss the vast majority of the regular season with a broken foot, Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Sunday.

The injury occurred too early for Tagovailoa-Amosa to notch a tackle against the Wolverines, but he provided needed depth on the interior in 2017, appearing in all 13 games and making 12 tackles with 1.5 for loss. His emergence was a bit of a surprise and raised hopes for a deeper rotation at tackle this season after spending an entire year in a collegiate strength and conditioning program.

“He’s an outstanding player,” Kelly said. “We’re hopeful we’ll get maybe some play out of him at the end of the year. If it’s 10 weeks, maybe we get considerable play with some late-game activity from him.”

In that scenario, Tagovailoa-Amosa could benefit from the NCAA’s shift on eligibility this year. At any point in the past, this would rule him out for the season and lead to a medical redshirt. Why bring a player back in the season finale for a dozen snaps at the cost of an entire year down the line? However, Tagovailoa-Amosa could now return for up to three more games and still retain that year of eligibility. With that in mind, Notre Dame will cross its fingers he might be able to see some action against Syracuse at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 17 to get back into the flow of things before a high-profile matchup at USC to end the regular season.

Without Tagovailoa-Amosa last night, the Irish turned to freshman Jayson Ademilola. He finished with one tackle, a number likely to be exceeded this coming weekend against Ball State.

“Jayson will be put in a high-leverage situation,” Kelly said. “(Senior) Micah Dew-Treadway will get some snaps. We’ll cross-train (fifth-year) Jonathan Bonner, as well.

“That’s probably the plan of attack, Jayson getting more snaps. We have a lot of confidence in Jayson. He’s ready to play some good football for us.”

Bonner spent 2017 as the three-technique tackle, surprising with his effectiveness. He and senior Jerry Tillery flipped in the spring, though, moving Bonner to nose tackle. Adding him to the rotation behind Tillery would increase the reps needed from sophomore Kurt Hinish, Bonner’s primary backup.

Twice junior receiver Chase Claypool beat the rest of Notre Dame’s punt coverage unit down the field. The first came just before halftime, halting Michigan returner Donovan Peoples-Jones at the Wolverines two-yard line. The other stopped Peoples-Jones just before he appeared poised to break loose on a return with the Wolverines trailing by just a touchdown in the final minutes. If Claypool did not knock him out of bounds, another 10 yards and ripe field position seemed a minimum.

“[Claypool] brings a lot,” Kelly said. “The game is still coming to him in terms of knowledge of everything that he does on a day-to-day basis. He has such a want and a desire and a high care factor. You love his energy. You love the emotion he brings. Sometimes it’s a balancing act of not getting outside the lines.”

It was that high care factor and energy that pushed Claypool to 11 special teams tackles as a freshman. He did not appear on those coverage units last season, instead focusing his efforts on receiver duties. Reincorporating Claypool on return coverage showcases his unique athleticism and, apparently, still stymies the opposition’s best attempts at a comeback. He also had three catches for 47 yards.

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