With the graduation of Ben Koyack the Irish are looking for a new number one tight-end, and Durham Smythe is looking to be that man.
Smythe was a member of Notre Dame’s elite 2013 recruiting class and had offers from many elite programs including Oregon, Georgia, Texas and Florida but chose tight-end U.
The Texas native did not play in the 2013 season as he sat behind Troy Niklas and Koyack but saw action in all 13 games this past season primarily in a blocking role as he caught only one pass for seven yards. Smythe has cemented himself above fellow 2013 tight-end recruit Mike Heuerman on the depth chart despite the fact the Ohio native was ranked higher than him by most recruiting services. However, Smythe is going to face a great deal of competition for the starting job this season.
Sophomore Tyler Luatua will push Smythe for playing time throughout spring and summer practice. Luatua played in 10 games last season making one start, while missing three games due to injury. The California native did a solid job in a blocking role but also possesses the ability to be a solid receiving option.
Smythe’s biggest competition could come from a true freshman though. Alize Jones, arguably the top high school tight-end in the 2015 class chose Notre Dame over many suitors and is a threat to step into a big role immediately. At 6’5’’ Jones is a prototypical tight-end as he creates matchup problems and can catch anything in his vicinity. He likely comes in as the best pass catcher of the Irish tight-ends and could be a weapon in the red zone.
Smythe’s experience could be his best asset as it could prove helpful to Malik Zaire if he becomes the full-time starter as well as to Everett Golson. Both quarterbacks would benefit from a security blanket like Smythe who could consistently be in the right place and make big catches on third down.
The battle for playing time at tight-end will likely be ongoing throughout the season which could bring out the best in Smythe and the other options at the position. That would benefit the Irish as more consistent play will be needed from the position this season in order for Notre Dame to be successful.