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Notre Dame Football

Speedy Notre Dame RB Chris Tyree Flashes Patience

October 15, 2020

There’s a reason they call Chris Tyree “The Jet.”

Notre Dame’s freshman running back arrived in South Bend with a reputation as a speedster, a well-deserved one after claiming back-to-back Fastest Man titles at The Opening Finals as a junior and senior at Thomas Dale High School.

Top college programs across the country pursued Tyree out of high school, hoping to add that speed to their offenses, but the Irish saw more.

While that speed has been obvious to anybody watching NBC on Saturdays so far this fall, Irish head coach Brian Kelly points to something that almost seems like the contradictory, patience.

Against Florida State this past Saturday, Tyree rushed for 103 yards on 11 carries, including a 45-yard touchdown, which displayed that exact combination of speed and patience.

“The outside zone play was cut back up underneath the tight end wing block,” Kelly said. “That requires a lot of patience, confidence and trust. You usually don't get that with a young back. They become impatient; they want to bounce it outside.”

But Thomas Dale head coach Kevin Tucker knows Tyree isn’t your usual back.

“I think that’s one of the natural things Chris was born with,” said Tucker. “I’ve been watching Chris since he was 10, 11, 12 years old playing Little League. He’s just always been one of those patient backs.

“He’s patient, patient, patient, then he puts his foot in the ground and he’s gone.”

Kelly and Tucker each offered up another trait Tyree possesses that isn’t necessarily typical of speedsters.

“He doesn’t mind churning out those three and four-yard carries,” his high school coach said. “He knows eventually that hole is going to pop open and when it does, he’s going to make you miss and head downtown.

“I think that’s one of the things Chris always enjoyed; whatever it took to be a great teammate, whether it was running an Iso between the tackles for two or three yards or taking a toss or jet sweep and trying to get to the edge and using his speed.”

Tyree won Fastest Man at the nation’s premier prep event two years in a row.

As other schools pitched Tyree on how they could use jet sweeps and other plays to get him in space to showcase his speed, the Irish recruited him as a complete running back.

“He’s a very versatile back and I think that’s one of the reasons he picked Notre Dame,” said Tucker. “That great offensive line tradition they have there, great running back coach in Coach (Lance) Taylor and Coach Kelly has been true to his system.”

During the win over Florida State, Tucker picked up on yet another Tyree trait, one even less tangible trait than patience or grit, when Irish starting running back Kyren Williams fumbled on the second play from scrimmage.

“The first person who met him at the sideline was Chris, putting his arm around him and talking to him,” Tucker recalled. “You could tell those two guys care about each other and it was about the team, not, ‘Oh, I should be in there running the football.’

“Of course, coaches see this kind of stuff, I don’t know if typical fans do.” 

But again, no surprise for Tucker to see his former star do that sort of thing.

Despite being one of the top high school backs in the entire country, Tyree never carried the ball much more than 15 or 16 times per game under Tucker. Part of that was to keep him fresh and part of it was to keep defenses honest and Tyree never complained.

“Chris liked to see his teammates shine as well,” said Tucker. “We had a great quarterback his senior year who could run the ball a little bit as well. He had some great tailbacks and fullbacks around him, so we spread the ball out and Chris always made the most of it.

“I think that’s what makes him such a great player for Notre Dame, he’s a great teammate.”

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