For Notre Dame tight end Alize’ Mack, it is now ‘time to decide’

Notre Dame senior tight end Alize' Mack, left, works through a drill with a teammate during a practice this spring at the Loftus Sports Center in South Bend. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)
Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long works with the Fighting Irish tight ends during a practice last spring at the Loftus Sports Center in South Bend. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)
Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly speaks with the media this spring in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex following a practice. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)

Alize’ Mack has allowed time – and opportunities – to slip through his fingers too many times in the past.

The Notre Dame senior tight end has had the same occur with footballs, as well. However, it appears that with his college clock ticking precariously close to the end, Mack has finally begun to seize opportunities (and passes) instead of wasting them.

“It’s his last year,” second-year Notre Dame offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Chip Long said this spring of Mack. “It’s his senior year. You don’t get another senior year, so it is time to decide what kind of player that you want to be, what kind of legacy that you want to leave, and if this game is important to you.

“It really is important to him.”

Mack had a “consistent” spring, according to Long, which is a great improvement for the oft-troubled student-athlete, and that reliability has carried over into training camp.

The Fighting Irish ended the portion of camp Tuesday afternoon that is conducted at Culver Academies and they will return to campus in South Bend Wednesday for a 10 a.m. practice, but before they left Culver, Mack made his presence felt.

He was named as Notre Dame’s “Offensive Player of the Day” Monday, which shouldn’t surprise Long or coach Brian Kelly, who praised Mack in the spring, despite him missing the Citrus Bowl in January due to being suspended.

“I think a lot of things were areas that he had to clean up off the field, which he has,” Kelly said of Mack’s growth over the off-season. “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.”

Mack caught 13 balls in 13 games as a true freshman in 2015 and was being looked upon as potentially the next in a long line of great Fighting Irish tight ends. However, that path got derailed in 2016 when he was academically ineligible for the entire season.

He came back last year and had a productive season (19 receptions) in leading the Irish tight ends, but even that was tinged with negativity.

Following a six-reception performance in a win over North Carolina State in mid-season, Mack’s year fell off a figurative cliff.

He only caught two balls in the final seven weeks and didn’t even play in three of the final five games, the last being suspended for.

“He’s very humble,” Kelly said of Mack. “He’s done all the little things the right way for us off the field. His attention to detail has been great. Good for him. Now he’s got to go put that together.”

Mack has to do so because if he doesn’t Kelly and Long have other options to turn to.

Sophomore tight end Cole Kmet is emerging and the Irish also return senior Nic Weishar, sophomore Brock Wright, and true freshmen George Takacs and Tommy Tremble at the position.

“He’s got some good players around him that he’s got to go and beat out because he’s coming off of a suspension,” Kelly said.

Mack has dropped four pounds since last season and is listed at 247 pounds, which makes him an inch shorter and 11 pounds smaller than Kmet, whom Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush referred to following Friday’s practice as a “freak.”

“Cole is going to be a freak of a tight end,” Wimbush said. “You want to be on the same page as him.”

A great relationship between the Notre Dame quarterback and a talented tight end can go a long way in benefitting the entire program and if that bond forms with multiple tight ends, that is all the better.

“Alize’ has done a great job,” Long said. “I’m extremely proud with his growth and it’s not a surprise that he is really playing well for us right now. He sees that and now he understands what he has to do – daily – so that he can stay at that level of performance.”

For more on Notre Dame football, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010, Facebook at Thomas Davis, and Instagram at tomdavis101010.

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