Watch List Week continues to roll on this week. On Monday we learned that Nyles Morgan is on the Bednarik Watch List and that Josh Adams and Mike McGlinchey are on the Maxwell Award watch list. On Tuesday we found out that Notre Dame has not one but two tight ends on the Mackey Award Watch List – Alize Mack and Durham Smythe.
A year ago, Alize Mack – then known as Alize Jones – was on the Mackey Award Watch List as well despite having just 13 career catches heading into the season. Unfortunately we were unable to find out if Mack was deserved of the hype after he was suspended for the 2016 season for academic reasons. Heading into the 2017 season, however, big things are expected from Mack in Chip Long’s new offense.
WIth Mack on the sidelines and running with the scout team in practice, the door was wide open for Durham Smyhe to pick up the torch at Tight End U. Smythe only caught 9 passes all season long, however, despite starting all 12 games. He did make those 9 catches count though. Four of them went for touchdowns.
Combined, Notre Dame’s tight end duo has just 26 career catches in 41 games of action. So why have both on the preseason watch list for an award given to the nation’s top tight? Part of the reason is likely optimism for increased production in Long’s offense. Long has a good track record of utilizing his tight ends and it is believed that Notre Dame will be featuring a lot of two tight end sets this year with Smythe playing more as an inline tight end and Mack flexed out in the slot where he will be a matchup nightmare.
Tyler Eifert won the award in 2012 and remains the only Notre Dame tight end to ever win the award. Eifert was also a finalist in 2011 and could have easily made the case for deserving the award then as well. Anthony Fasano (2005) and John Carlson (2006) were also finalists for the Award for Notre Dame in the past. Since the award’s inception in 2000, Notre Dame has produced 8 semifinalists for the award – more than any other program. Thus the well deserved moniker of Tight End U.
Production at the tight end position has fallen off drastically at Notre Dame over the last few seasons though. Since Troy Niklas caught 32 passes for 498 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2013, Notre Dame’s tight ends haven’t produced at the levels we have come to expect. Ben Koyack caught 30 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns in 2014, but at the time that was considered a disappointment given the run of tight ends Notre Dame has had since Fasano.
Mack and Smythe have the ability to change that this year.
Notre Dame will face off against nine of the 53 watch list tight ends that aren’t on their roster this season. Cole Cook (NC State), Brandon Fittis (North Carolina), Chris Herndon (Miami), Daniel Imatorbhehe (USC), Isaac Nauta (Georgia), Dalton Shultz (Stanford), Cam Serigne (Wake Forest), Ryan Smith (Miami of Ohio), and Tommy Sweeney (Boston College) are all on the list. Only Navy, Temple, and Michigan State on the 2017 Notre Dame schedule do not feature a tight end on the Mackey Watch List.