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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame TE Cooper Flanagan Looking to Expand Role in 2024

April 16, 2024

Cooper Flanagan probably flew under the radar for most Notre Dame fans last fall. The California native appeared in all 13 games and even made two starts as a true freshman at tight end. 

It’s not every day a true freshman makes an impact in a loaded tight end room, but Flanagan was able to carve out a role in the run game and didn’t look back.

This spring, the 6-foot-6, 249-pounder is focused on expanding his role in the Notre Dame offense, which means stepping up in the passing game. 

“I think it’s still the pass game,” Flanagan said. “Just kind of proving myself in the pass game. I think (in the) run game, I’ve been obviously getting stronger, bigger, faster, but just getting my routes good, releases good.” 

Flanagan certainly showed off his ability to impact the passing game during Saturday’s jersey scrimmage as he made a couple nice snags, which should go a long way in boosting his confidence in Notre Dame’s new offense. 

Yes, Mike Denbrock isn’t using two or three tight ends as much as past offensive coordinators, but he still gets them the ball - and in space. 

“More 11 personnel, that should be interesting,” said Flanagan. “I think the route game definitely opened up. More routes, more opportunities for the ball.” 

Learning a new playbook isn’t the easiest part of football, but being able to execute it at a high level is perhaps the most significant challenge for any position. 

“I think I’m pretty comfortable with every route in the playbook,” explained Flanagan. “I think just getting better at little things, just like top-of-the-route stuff, release stuff. Just kind of being able to see man or zone, adjusting to that quickly.” 

Denbrock’s biggest impact on the tight end room might be in the rooms teaching his players the game. The veteran coach has knowledge to share and Flanagan has welcomed the opportunity to learn from seeing the game from a different perspective. 

“He’s great,” stated Flanagan. “Obviously, super smart guy. But just being able to hear him talk about defenses and the way he’s been able to coach the run game and pass game has been amazing, so I’ve been able to learn a lot.” 

Where has Denbrock helped Flanagan the most? Presnap recognition and processing crucial information quicker, which also comes from having a year of snaps under his belt. 

‘I think just walking up to the line, being able to read what coverage they’re in,” Flanagan said of where Denbrock has helped him. “Run plays, what to block, how to block it. He’s been great. He’s made it pretty easy.” 

Flanagan has also made a positive impression on Denbrock through 11 practices. 

“Coop has been fantastic all spring,” stated Denbrock. “Very, very encouraged by where he’s headed. Love his work ethic. He’s tough as nails. Love all that.” 

The new offense isn’t the only adjustment for Flanagan and the rest of the tight end room. The unit is also going through the growing pains of building chemistry with two new offensive tackles as Joe Alt and Blake Fisher are off to the NFL. 

“Tosh (Baker) has been great,” explained Flanagan. “He’s obviously an older guy. And then Charles being a younger guy. Coming in with Charles, we already have a relationship. But Tosh has been great, too. Just him being a great kid made it easy, and just being able to talk to them made it easy for both of them.” 

Flanagan will also have a new quarterback throwing him the football on Saturdays this fall as the Irish look to replace Sam Hartman. 

“It’s kind of tough with Riley (Leonard),” said Flanagan. “I love them all. I think getting work with them in the offseason was great and it helped a lot.” 

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