Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 28 of 55 APRIL 2021 29 TIGHT ENDS 2021 SPRING FOOTBALL PREVIEW T here's understandable desire for Notre Dame to move away from its tight end usage and involve receivers more. Re- cent national champions are pow- ered by potent passing games that feature elusive and explosive re- ceivers who are mismatches for most defenders they see. The caveat is, Notre Dame doesn't currently have the person- nel at receiver to do that. Finding playmakers at that spot is a spring goal, but the Irish are going to play to their personnel. Tight end remains a strength. It's where Notre Dame can best create mis- matches. Because until there's more clarity at receiver, there's one matchup problem: It's No. 87. Michael Mayer is a mismatch Notre Dame will lean on and be better because of it. Elsewhere, George Takacs' career so far il- lustrates the Irish's consistent supply of riches at tight end. He's a former four-star recruit who redshirted as a freshman and couldn't crack the top three as a sophomore or junior. In his limited sample size, he looked the part of a Power Five contribu- tor. Yet he had to wait until his senior year to get a real chance at extended playing time. Taking head coach Brian Kelly at his word, it's possible Kevin Bauman would have played as a 2020 freshman at other Power Five schools. Kelly singled him out multiple times for his fall camp performance, but his path to seeing the field had too many barriers because of the talent in front of him. It's asking a lot of Takacs or Bauman to provide the blocking im- pact Tommy Tremble did. If the recent trends on target share for the No. 2 tight end continue, one of them will catch about 15 to 20 passes this season. Both have the receiving upside to make the most out of them and be a legitimate second weapon at tight end instead of just a generic supplement to Mayer. BY THE NUMBERS 8 Notre Dame tight ends drafted since 2008. Tommy Tremble would be the ninth if he's picked, which is the expectation. He's the fourth Notre Dame tight end since 2010 to declare after his junior season. 22 Third- and fourth-down targets for Michael Mayer, which led Notre Dame. He caught 17 for 171 yards. 76.2 Percentage of Mayer's 42 catches that resulted in first downs. That ranked 19th among quali- fied Football Bowl Subdivision tight ends. He was fourth among Football Bowl Subdivision tight ends in first-down rate on third- and fourth-down receptions, at 82.4 percent. WHO'S GONE Brock Wright Primarily used as a blocker, he played 345 snaps and had three catches for 21 yards as the No. 3 tight end. Tommy Tremble An offseason filled with buzz about his potential as a receiver turned into a junior campaign where he was best known for punishing defenders as a run blocker. That was enough to make him declare early for the 2021 NFL Draft, in which he could be a day-two pick despite catching just 19 passes for 218 yards and no touchdowns. WHO'S BACK Senior George Takacs Nearly all of his' work came in Notre Dame's short-yardage and goal-line 14 personnel pack- age (one running back, four tight ends), meaning he was mostly a blocker in 2020. He caught three passes for 30 yards. Sophomore Michael Mayer The highest-ranked Irish tight end signee since Kyle Rudolph (2008) delivered an immediate impact, with 42 catches for 450 yards and two touchdowns. He was Notre Dame's primary tight end in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) and played the most snaps among the five scholarship players at the position. Sophomore Kevin Bauman The other four-star tight end recruit in Notre Dame's 2020 class played in four games and caught one pass. TIGHT ENDS COACH John McNulty — Second Year He enters his 30th year in the coaching profession. He worked with of- fensive coordinator Tommy Rees with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2016, and Rees hired him shortly after earning the coordinator bump. POSITION BATTLE TO WATCH No one's supplanting Michael Mayer atop the depth chart. George Takacs, a reliable blocker when in the game, ought to get the first shot at the No. 2 job, which would bring a big bump in snaps and targets. Kevin Bauman will attempt to push him for snaps. But all told, there's not a ton of suspense here. Notre Dame is going to throw to its tight ends. Even if it doesn't use multiple tight ends on half its offensive plays like it did in 2020, there will be room for at least two of them to play meaningful snaps. Looking at it that way, Mayer, Takacs and Bauman all are likely to play. It's just a matter of the order for the latter two. Notre Dame signed a pair of three- star freshmen, Cane Berrong and Mitchell Evans, but they'll need to really impress to make a run at earning snaps right away. Both enrolled early and will be in the program for spring practices. MICHAEL MAYER PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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