Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2022

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

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20 JUNE/JULY 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY ASHTON POLLARD N otre Dame running back Chris Tyree has had a collegiate ca- reer filled with both blessings and curses. In two years with Notre Dame, the rising junior has totaled 129 carries for 718 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground, while also notching 32 catches for 323 yards and 1 score. He's also been heavily involved as a returner, including a 96-yard kickoff return for a touch- down last season against Wisconsin. In that respect, it's been a blessing. Few people get that amount of play- ing time in college football, especially at Notre Dame. But when you turn the calendar back to 2020 and look at the expectations Notre Dame had for Tyree just 24 months ago, his time with the Irish has been underwhelming. "It was about to be my junior year, and I realized that my career was start- ing to go downhill," Tyree said this spring. "My first two years weren't as good as I wanted them to be." The junior out of Chester, Va., a sub- urb of Richmond, was the No. 2 player from Virginia, No. 9 running back and No. 81 overall player in the 2020 class per the On3 Consensus. Notre Dame beat out Alabama and Oklahoma to land Tyree. He was supposed to be it for the Irish offense. Instead, the 5-foot-9, 190-pound back is coming off a Year 2 in which he averaged just 4 yards per carry, missed a game (and was hindered in numerous others) thanks to a turf toe injury and was the backup to former Irish star and current Los Angeles Rams draftee Kyren Williams. In that respect, it's been a curse. Now it's his third year, and as the old- est member of an Irish running back room, it's pretty much now or never. REPLACING A 1,000-YARD RUSHER Williams arrived at Notre Dame as the No. 26 running back in the nation in his class, and he left one of the most exciting rushers in recent Irish history after post- ing back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons on the ground. Tyree came in a year behind Williams, but it was entirely possible his star power would lead to him taking over the top spot on the running back depth chart. That never happened. As a freshman, Tyree carried the ball 73 times for 496 yards and 4 touch- downs, but it was a relatively small contribution compared to William's 211 carries for 1,125 yards and 13 scores on the ground. Fast forward to his sophomore year, and Tyree suffered through a turf toe injury, which caused him to miss the entirety of the USC game Oct. 23. Turf toe can be a number of things for dif- ferent people, but Tyree's involved torn ligaments. The injury lingered down the stretch last season. "I would say I was fighting it pretty much all season," Tyree said in a spring interview. "It was a long process for sure." According to Pro Football Focus, Tyree averaged 27.3 total snaps per game in Notre Dame's first six contests. In the final six regular season contests, he averaged 14.2 snaps per game. In fairness, Tyree was on the field for 59 snaps in the bowl game due to Wil- liams' decision to sit out the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State, a good sign for the 2022 season. But he was far more productive in the passing game than on the ground; Tyree had 6 carries for 18 yards along with 6 catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. "I feel like that was in-rhythm with what we were doing throughout the season just because I was all over the place," Tyree said. "But sometimes that's just how the game goes, the quar- terback goes through his progression, sees the back is wide open in the flat. So, he thought that was best, and that's just how the game went that day." SPRING SETBACK Through the turmoil of the Notre Dame coaching change emerged an up- perclassman Tyree ready to explode in 2022. Then came another minor bump in the road. The Virginia native suffered a left high-ankle sprain during spring practice, which limited him for a few weeks. He had just 2 carries for 10 yards in the Blue Gold Game April 23. It's difficult to put much stock into the spring, especially given the limited windows the public was given into prac- tice. But by the accounts of those there each day, new running backs coach De- land McCullough is setting up the group for success. "I feel like we really hit the ground running as soon as he got hired," Tyree said. "He really gets along with the whole room." McCullough has prioritized and broken down the running backs' reads throughout the spring into more digest- ible pieces, which Tyree appreciates even if he was not a full participant for the duration of the spring. Additionally, there has been no short- age of focus on the passing game this sea- son from McCullough's group. Versatility on the field is not a bonus, it's a necessity. WHO'S GOING TO BRING THE JUICE? Williams provided a spark for the Irish offense on the field, but he also brought an energy to the sideline not found in the box score. With a running NOW OR NEVER? Chris Tyree feels a sense of urgency to realize his full potential at Notre Dame "It was about to be my junior year, and I realized that my career was starting to go downhill. My first two years weren't as good as I wanted them to be." TYREE

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