2018 Notre Dame Spring Football Position Analysis: Tight end
History has demonstrated that the tight end position for the Notre Dame football program has rarely been of much concern. Well, that HAS been history of late. However, the Fighting Irish are in the process of having resurgence at the position following a brief dry spell and second-year offensive coordinator Chip Long hopes to build on a solid 2017 season.
The Irish opened spring football a week ago with the first of 15 practices, culminating with the Blue-Gold Game on April 21 (12:30 p.m.) and continued development of the tight end position is a primary focus for the program.
“We’ve tried to be a majority with the 12 personnel team,” Long told News-Sentinel.com last month. “Our whole offense is dictated by the players that we have, the guys that can sustain the tempo and go out there and execute day in and day out.”
News-Sentinel.com sports reporter Tom Davis has been writing on Notre Dame football for nearly two decades and will take an in-depth look at the each position group for next season as it pertains to this spring.
Today’s position: Tight end
Coming next: wide receiver
The Notre Dame coaches have done a nice job of recruiting and then developing the roster for several seasons, which has led to an array of positions that possess strong depth. No position epitomizes that better than the tight ends.
The Fighting Irish return four athletes who saw action last season in seniors Alize’ Mack and Nic Weishar, while second-year players Cole Kmet and Brock Wright contributed in lesser, but specific roles as freshmen.
Notre Dame also signed a pair of incoming freshmen in Tommy Tremble and George Takacs.
To have six different players available to compete for playing time may seem like a headache for the Fighting Irish coaching staff, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Long admitted last month that he has never had this much depth and skill available to him at the position, so he is being creative in his plans on how to utilize every player and maximize their skill sets.
“It can look different every single year,” Long said of his formations and schemes, “and every single game. It is really a player-driven offense.”
A year ago, Mack led the position group with 19 receptions, but only two came in the final six games. The oft-troubled player was suspended for the Citrus Bowl, but is back in good graces to train this spring.
“I think a lot of things were areas that he had to clean up off the field, which he has,” veteran Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said of Mack. “He has not been on any lists. I’m really proud of him and what he’s done. But he knows he’s got to go prove it now. He’s got to be consistent as a ball catcher. He’s got to be great in line as well as detached.”
Weishar caught nine passes a year ago, while Kmet (two receptions) and Wright (utilized as a blocker at fullback) found roles, as well.
The depth at tight end will help immensely in regards to the wide receiver position, which lacks experience and depth.
Mack should bounce back with a strong season, while Weishar finds a reliable role and Kmet and Wright continue to grow.
Takacs has enrolled early and is on campus, but Kelly said that a “cartilage tear” required surgery recently and he will miss the spring drills. He is a more developed blocker, while Tremble is a more fluid and agile receiver.
Both would be challenged to break into any type of significant role next season, but it isn’t impossible.
“We want to be physical,” Long said. “If you run play-action offense, you need to have tight ends, who can block and then come off the ball and establish the run and let everything build off of that.”
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