Notre Dame Football: The Return of Tight End U – 2017

Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /

Notre Dame football, otherwise known as “Tight End U,” has produced some of the NCAA and NFL’s best pass-catching linemen over the years.

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Last season, in the midst of the worst season of the Brian Kelly era, Notre Dame seemed to lose sight of their history. Although Durham Smythe was a valuable asset to the team and will be moving forward, he wasn’t worthy enough to continue to “Tight End U” tradition of dominance.

Comparing to guys like Kyle Rudolph, Tyler Eifert, and John Carlson, Smythe’s 2016 season was atrocious. His nine receptions for 112 yards and four touchdowns will be a forgotten season as soon as 2017 begins.

This year is the return of “Tight End U.” The Fighting Irish will bring back Smythe for his fifth year, and bring Aliz’e Jones (Mack) back to their depth chart. A player Coach Brian Kelly said is “virtually un-coverable.” While Jones will be the starter heading into 2017, Smythe’s usage will still be needed and will likely come close to a 60/40 snap count for the two ends.

Under Chip Long’s new offensive scheme, Jones will prosper. His speed and athleticism already make him one of the best in the NCAA. Now, you add passes designed to leave Jones against a defender in the middle of the field. The equation to this problem is a big year and return for Aliz’e Jones.

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While Smythe’s role will consist mostly of blocking, he will be used as the tall body with a big frame in the redzone. He does have reliable hands and could pull down tough catches in the endzone. Long and Brandon Wimbush will be looking to give Smythe a few shots to score and send him out of South Bend after a great year.

These two will be one of the deadliest combinations in college football during the 2017 year. While both should have decent seasons, Jones is looking to return to the Irish after being missing the entire 2016 campaign because of suspension. In his comeback, he’ll explode as a top tight end during the season.

“Tight End U” doesn’t end this year, though. Brian Kelly has brought in two of the top three tight ends in the 2017 class. Brock Wright and Cole Kmet probably won’t play this season, likely to be redshirted but are the next chapter in this program.

As two big players, Wright being 6’4, 243-pounds and Kmet 6’5, 230-pounds, these two will be a deadly blocking and receiving duo in their time on campus. Depending on who shows stronger traits in different areas, these two could be the primary receiving targets for Wimbush in 2018.

Maybe Notre Dame didn’t bring the fiery tight end’s they usually have to 2016. But, in all honesty, they didn’t bring much last season. Moving forward, the return of “Tight End U” begins. Don’t forget about Jones and Smythe. They may not be as exciting as Equanimeous St. Brown or Chase Claypool, but they’re going to have just as big of a purpose on this team.

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In the future, this doesn’t stop. Brian Kelly lost a lot of us last year, but bringing back the legacy of great pass-catching big men is a step towards success. Get excited, the return of “Tight End U” is September 2, 2017.