Notre Dame Football: Drue Tranquill and the Rover


Notre Dame football defensive coordinator, Mike Elko, brings a new scheme with him to South Bend and Drue Tranquill is the perfect candidate for it.

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In Mike Elko’s 4-2-5 scheme, Notre Dame must find a player who can cover but also be physically equipped enough to make stops against running backs off the edge. The Rover will be a combination of safety and linebacker, and you need a player who meets both positions’ skills to fill it.

The first man and best man for the job is senior captain Drue Tranquill. The 6’2, 230-pound strong safety has put on five pounds this offseason but has the lowest body fat percentage of his life. So, not only is Tranquill bigger but he’s quicker.

As one of the purest tacklers in the NCAA, Tranquill is a highly reliable option at safety. The last line of defense against the run, Tranquill stops the ball most times it reaches his level. This, could be a reason Elko decides to keep him at strong safety, to make sure they have a dependable option to stop the ball carrier in the open field.

He lacks true coverage skills, though. Last season, you saw that he was exposed in the middle of the field a number of times. He isn’t quick in opening his hips which cost him as a bigger safety. But with his gained speed, this could be a problem that fixes itself. If Elko works out Tranquill’s coverage skills, he may turn into a superb all-around talent at safety.

His skill set is more natural for the Rover, though. Tranquill is a big time hitter who always secures the tackle. With suburb intelligence, Tranquill will learn the position and develop an instinct for the spot in no time. Adding his gained speed, Tranquill will be a tough matchup against tight ends and slot receivers, both coverage options more suitable for him.

In simple terms, Tranquill is the perfect fit for the Rover. The senior has the leadership, knowledge, and physicality to move in and dominate the new scheme under Elko. But while he fills one void for the Irish, he leaves another open with minimum options to fill it.

After Tranquill, Notre Dame would have Devin Studstill, the sophomore free safety who split time with Nicco Fertitta last season and Nick Coleman who has just recently moved to safety from cornerback this spring. Free safety, Jalen Elliott, would also be in the mix for the spot but may be the third option to fill the position.

All three players would be decent options to take over at strong safety. None are as skilled as Tranquill, but they can do what’s needed of them to keep this secondary on the uphill climb. Whether or not they contain the same intelligence as Tranquill is unlikely, which takes away a major leadership aspect of this defense. Tranquill was always moving players in front of him and adjusting the defense to what he saw in the backfield. His intelligence made it easy for him to learn multiple positions and he may know the defense better than anyone else on the roster.

This will be a decision Elko will make, likely as one of the last choices in this defense. While Tranquill is the perfect candidate for the Rover, and Studstill and Coleman look like feasible replacements at strong safety, the Irish are losing a lot by moving the senior. How well Tranquill can become a leader and control the defense from the Rover this offseason is going to be big factor in the decision.

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It’ll be a choice Elko will have to decide. Until then, we’re doing nothing more than guessing whether or not Tranquill will end up at Rover or safety. But with the set of skills, he’ll bring to the new position, he’d be one of the scariest defensive players in the NCAA.