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Notre Dame Football

Dissecting the Depth Chart - Tight End

June 26, 2018

If you start at tight end at Notre Dame, then you’re going to get drafted by the NFL. That’s pretty much an automatic at this point.

Durham Smythe was the fifth tight end drafted under Brian Kelly in eight years. We can pretty much guarantee that whoever is the starter at tight end this year will get drafted. It wouldn’t be surprising if three or four of the tight ends on the roster do eventually. For all of the talent they have had at the position over the last decade, this might be the most they have had in total.

That talent needs to translate into production and given what we saw this spring, it should. Maybe as much production as Tyler Eifert and Kyle Rudolph had. It’s not out of the question if Chip Long decides to feature the tight end more in 2018.

That’s only one part of the equation, though. The other part has to do with the running game and what Smythe contributed in that area will be missed. He didn’t get enough credit for his improvement as in-line blocker and what he did to help make them have success running the football shouldn’t be overlooked.

If they don’t find someone to fill that role while still being productive in the passing game, then the Irish could be in trouble. The offense needs more than just flash from the tight ends. They need a whole of substance as well.

Matchup Nightmares

With Smythe gone, it opens up more opportunity for emerging stars. Notre Dame might have the most talented tight end group in the nation. It could end up being a much more productive year receiving even if the quarterback play is only slightly improved.

There are many reasons to be excited about Cole Kmet and Alize Mack after the show they put on during spring ball. Both were consistently outstanding catching the football. If they look anything close to that good in September, then opposing teams are going to struggle to match up with them in coverage.

There is a chance that both could be on the field at the same time a lot this season. If it’s about getting the best personnel on the field at all times, then 12 (one back and two tight ends) might end up being the base package for Notre Dame.

For that to happen, we need to see Kmet do it on Saturdays for the first time and Mack be consistent for the first time as well. It seems like the light went on for him after his suspension in the Citrus Bowl. If that’s the case, then we might finally see the breakout everyone has been expecting from him.

Can they be complete?

This is an important question because for all of the terrific catches Mack and Kmet made, neither looked all that great run blocking in the Blue-Gold game. If they can’t block better, either in-line or on the perimeter, then that is going to hurt the offense as a whole. For everything to work as it should, those two need to be close to complete players.

If they aren’t, then it opens the door for Brock Wright. He might be the second tight end on the field as it is because he has shown a lot more as a blocker in limited snaps. Wright also came in as a recruit with a reputation as a dominant in-line player and I believe he can be a big asset assisting up front.

The ideal is to have someone on the field that can do everything asked of him that also won’t tip what the call might be based on the strength of their game. Wright doesn’t have to be as spectacular as Kmet or Mack as a receiver, but he needs to show he can contribute in the passing game. After only being partially healthy in the spring, he should be full-go in August. If he has a great camp while those others don’t improve blocking, Wright can force his way into a bigger role.

It’s easy to forget about Nic Weishar after he missed the spring with an injury. He doesn’t have the ceiling of the others competing at the position, but we know what his floor is and that’s still a pretty effective player. He can be solid in just about every facet of the game. At the very least he is going to push Wright, Kmet, and Mack to be better and if they aren’t, he’ll likely take away snaps from them.

Freshmen Push?

Right now it doesn’t seem likely that either of the two freshmen tight ends will play all that much, but that could change with a great summer or an injury that opens things up. They both have the skill to at least push the players in front of them, though.

George Takacs was on campus in January as an early enrollee, but missed spring ball with a knee injury. We’ll get to see him compete for the first time in fall camp and I’m very interested to see what weight he comes in at.

Tommy Tremble has as much upside as a receiver as anyone in the room. He’ll have to be spectacular this summer to have a chance to leap frog the others who have a head start on him, though. In the long term he has a bright future if he develops all parts of his game.

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