Notre Dame LB Drue Tranquill: I don’t like LSU

Notre Dame defender Drue Tranquill readies for a play against Michigan State in a game in 2016 in South Bend. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)
Notre Dame running back Deon McIntosh sprints upfield during a training camp practice in August at Culver Academy under the watchful eye of Irish coach Brian Kelly. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)

Of course, the Notre Dame football players and coaches would rather be prepping for the first of, hopefully, two games remaining in the College Football Playoff, but that opportunity was lost in the second half of last month.

As a consolation prize, the Fighting Irish (9-3) will battle a very-much respected opponent in LSU (9-3) in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando Monday (noon, ABC), and it’s an opportunity that isn’t lost on those within the Notre Dame program.

“It’s an incredible opportunity on that end for us to cap off our season and get a 10th win,” Notre Dame linebacker Drue Tranquill said recently. “I think that is important for us and important to send out our seniors that way.”

Tranquill and the rest of the Irish program arrived in Orlando Tuesday and will get back to work Wednesday for what promises to be a very difficult game, according to Tranquill.

“They are a great football team, historically, when you look at it” Tranquill said of LSU. “They started this season rough, but they are really hitting a hot streak and they are one of the better teams in college football right now.”

“It’s an exciting opportunity and I’m looking forward to it.”

Tranquill is “looking forward” to the game for a number of reasons, however, one of the primary ones is the fact that he was raised by a couple of Auburn University graduates and truth be told, he still has an affinity for the blue and orange. In fact, the reason behind Tranquill sporting the number 23 is because of his early childhood adornment of the great Tiger runner Ronnie Brown.

“I’ll say this lightly,” Tranquill said carefully, “because I grew up loving Auburn, so I don’t like LSU. I grew up; may parents always raised me not to like LSU. So to have the opportunity to go against them, it’s an honor, and I really look forward to it.”

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Tranquill missed out an earlier chance to battle the Tigers when he injured his knee as a freshman, and had to sit out the 2014 Music City Bowl in Nashville. In that game, Notre Dame got past LSU 31-28 on a last-second field goal.

“I remember wishing that I was out there,” Tranquill said. “It was a great win for our team and super exciting.”

That 2014 season was somewhat comparable to this year for Notre Dame, in that the program had very high hopes before faltering late.

In 2014, the Irish got off to a 6-0 start before losing five of their last seven games.

This season, Notre Dame had Heisman hopes (in the form of runner Josh Adams) and Playoff hopes (right up until a rout in Miami). But in 2014, the Irish were able to refocus and finish with a bowl win over a formidable team, which Tranquill hopes to repeat next week.

“I don’t think that it is going to make or break or define our season,” Tranquill said. “I think when you look historically; the SEC has been dominant over the past 10 years. So to have an opportunity to go against a second SEC opponent this year, (LSU) is going to be physical, they are going to be tough, and they are going to have playmakers all over the field. We’re going to have to match that.”

Three years ago, Tranquill said that Notre Dame used that win over the Tigers as a springboard into a strong 2015 season, in which the Irish finished 10-3.

He graduated with an engineering degree earlier this month, but he recently said that he would return for a fifth season in 2018, so hopes of a similar win and an even better 2018 season are obvious goals for the former Carroll High School star.

“It just built a lot of confidence,” Tranquill said of the Music City Bowl win. “A lot of guys didn’t have a lot of confidence heading into that game, and coming out, when you see you can beat a quality opponent and a first round (NFL) Draft pick in (LSU running back) Leonard Fournette, that gave a lot of guys confidence heading into the next season.”

FUTURE (MAY BE) BRIGHT

Notre Dame recently signed 21 student-athletes for the 2018 recruiting class, which was capped by talented Oregon wide receiver Braden Lenzy.

When the Fighting Irish coaches resume signing prospects on Feb. 7, perhaps it will be another West Coast pass-catcher that will lead the way.

California wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown announced Tuesday that Notre Dame is among the three finalists that he will select from, along with USC and Stanford.

If that surname sounds familiar to Irish fans, it should.

St. Brown’s older brother, Equanimeous St. Brown, is the most talented and productive wide receiver on the Notre Dame roster. However, St. Brown also has another brother that plays for Stanford.

Osiris St. Brown is a freshman receiver for the Cardinal.

Amon-Ra is rated as the second-best receiver nationally by 247Sports and 12th-best player overall.

“Our response has been really good in terms of guys signing in December,” veteran Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said earlier this month of his recruiting. “So if they are committed, they’ll sign in December. If you don’t sign in December, you’re not committed and we’ll have to keep recruiting you.”

For more on college football, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.

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