Notre Dame's Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa making most of switch to defensive end

Tyler James | South Bend Tribune
ND Insider

Nearly four years after Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa enrolled at Notre Dame, the defensive lineman was ready to admit that he came to South Bend overweight.

That’s why, at least in his mind, Tagovailoa-Amosa started his college career as a defensive tackle after playing mostly defensive end at Kapolei (Hawaii) High.

“Hawaii food, man, it will get to you,” Tagovailoa-Amosa said Saturday. “I came in overweight and they moved me inside. I just put my head down and went to work.”

Fueled by a favorite Spam musubi dish (Spam, seaweed and rice) he could recreate on his own, Tagovailoa-Amosa stayed at defensive tackle for four seasons with the Irish. But when given a chance to stay for a graduate season, he had one request of defensive line coach Mike Elston. Tagovailoa-Amosa wanted a shot at playing defensive end.

“When we came back for spring ball, coach Elston told me that I would be making the move full-time,” Tagovailoa-Amosa said. “It’s going to be exciting.”

The spring experiment has been so successful that head coach Brian Kelly considered the results through the first 10 practices a bit of a surprise.

“I didn’t know how he was going to handle the transition to the edge, quite frankly, and he’s been impressive,” Kelly said. “The things that he’ll have to continue to work on is certainly picking his spots relative to his pass rush, in terms of what techniques he’s going to use. He has to mix it up, and those are things that take time to develop.

“But he’s so good against the run. He’s strong. He has such a great lower body and base that he can get underneath those tackles and string things out. He’s done a really good job.”

Tagovailoa-Amosa described his pass-rush repertoire as a power series that utilizes his long arms and the strength he developed as a defensive tackle. If he can mix some elusive moves into that mix, Tagovailoa-Amosa could become a problem for opposing offensive tackles.

Pressuring the quarterback wasn’t exactly Tagovailoa-Amosa’s forte as a defensive tackle. He recorded only three sacks in his 21 starts the last two seasons and was credited with eight quarterback hurries.

Tagovailoa-Amosa said he’s worked with director of football performance Matt Balis on his explosiveness, acceleration and strength to make himself a better defensive end. Notre Dame’s roster still lists the 6-foot-3 Tagovailoa-Amosa at 282 pounds — the same number posted for the season opener last year — but he indicated he lost weight during a COVID-19 quarantine last season and has kept it off. Tagovailoa-Amosa missed the Florida State game and was limited the following week against Louisville.

“Myron’s doing great,” Elston said last week. “The move for him has been very beneficial. He’s trimmed down and leaned out in his weight. He looks really good with speed and agility off the edge. Probably the most productive guy right now up to this point throughout spring.”

Statistical production wasn’t always a priority for Tagovailoa-Amosa at defensive tackle. A career with 53 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks in 38 games doesn’t quite measure the impact he made at the position.

But he’ll be asked to produce more at defensive end in new coordinator Marcus Freeman’s defensive scheme.

“We have a lot more pressure packages,” Tagovailoa-Amosa said. “It’s going to be exciting. We’re throwing a lot at our offense.”

The process of switching positions has been so enjoyable for Tagovailoa-Amosa, he repeatedly used “fun” as an adjective throughout his Saturday press conference.

That’s because his body has taken the right shape and he doesn’t have to take on two offensive linemen quite as often.

“To be honest, the shift out to D-End wasn’t that hard,” Tagovailoa-Amosa said. “It’s a lot easier, in my opinion, as far as double teams go. There are less double teams. Even if it is, it’s with a tight end, so it’s a lot easier.

“It’s been a fun transition. Getting on edges has been a lot easier on the outside then on the inside. Overall, it’s just been a fun time.”

Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, right, should have more opportunities to pressure quarterbacks for Notre Dame by moving out to defensive end after four seasons at defensive tackle