One of the early surprises of the first week of fall camp is the emergence – or reemergence – of senior defensive end Andrew Trumbetti. Strong gains in the weight room and an impressive first week of fall camp has Trumbetti trending up. Could a shake up of Notre Dame’s defensive line now be on the horizon?
It is well known that Notre Dame is facing depth concerns on the defensive line this year – specifically in the interior of the line where injuries to Elijah Taylor and Daniel Cage have Notre Dame short on experience. If Andrew Trumbetti is able to build on his impressive first week of practice, he can help to mask some of those depth issues.
Heading into fall camp it looked like Jay Hayes was locked in as the starter at the strong side defensive end spot in Mike Elko’s defense. Then Daniel Cage was forced into a medical redshirt and Elijah Taylor’s recovery from his lisfranc injury was delayed. That leaves Notre Dame without two interior lineman that it was counting on for major playing time this fall. At 6’3″, 290 lbs; Jay Hayes could help there. For that happen, Notre Dame needs someone like Andrew Trumbetti to man the SDE position.
According to Brian Kelly, Trumbetti will be cross trained at both SDE and WDE or the “drop” position. That could allow Notre Dame some much needed flexibility this fall.
Andrew Trumbetti Has Been Here Before
This isn’t the first time Andrew Trumbetti has had an impressive training camp. Three years ago Trumbetti was a camp sensation and surged to the top of the depth chart in August. It looked like Trumbetti passed Romeo Okwara in camp in 2014 at one point before Okwara regained the starting role before the season opener. Trumbetti still had a role in 2014 finishing the year with 5.5 tackles for a loss and sack.
Trumbetti was not able to build on that freshman campaign though. As a sophomore in 2015, he had just 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack. That lone sack and two of the tackles for loss all came in a single contest – the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Last year his tackle for loss total fell to just 0.5. Notre Dame was desperate for pass rushers last fall and Trumbetti was not able to register a single sack while totaling just three hurries.
What Has Changed?
Brian Kelly admitted over the weekend that Notre Dame has not done a good job of developing Trumbetti over the last three years. The fact that his tackles for loss have dropped each year backs that up to. The arrivals of Matt Balis and Mike Elko have helped breathe life back into what looked like a promising career just a few years ago for a one time Under Armour All-American.
“He was a dominating player, had an edge about him, and we did a poor job of developing him until this year,” Kelly said on Saturday. “He is at that point where he’s gonna make an impact and it’s gonna be fun to watch,” he added.
Trumbetti is listed at 263 lbs on the most recent roster – up 8 lbs from his 255 list weight from a year ago. Trumbetti is also not being asked to be the answer to Notre Dame’s pass rush but rather one of several players who will round out the depth chart. Trumbetti will get cross trained at both the weakside and strongside but with Daelin Hayes and Julian Okwara on the weakside along with the developing Ade Ogundegi, he might be more effective on the strongside where he won’t be asked to be as much of a pass rusher.
Kelly credited Trumbetti’s work with Balis in the off-season and the arrival of Elko and his defense as the reasons for Trumbetti’s reemergence. “All those things coming together,” Kelly said. “I’m really proud of what he’s doing and like I said, it’s always been a fight with him in terms of body weight and strength and he’s physically an imposing edge player for us right now.”
Reshuffling the Notre Dame Line?
If Trumbetti continues his renaissance this summer, he will allow Elko and defensive line coach Mike Elston some flexibility with playing Jay Hayes inside – especially against pass first opponents. Jonathan Bonner is listed as the starter at defensive tackle now, but he hasn’t shown the ability to rush the passer to this point in his career while Hayes has. The two could form a pretty solid duo for the Irish.
Even if Hayes plays more inside than originally expected, it still doesn’t solve Notre Dame’s problem behind Jerry Tillery at nose tackle, but the flexibility it gives Elko and Elston could give them more options behind Tillery. Notre Dame could give Brandon Tiassum and Micah Dew-Treadway a look behind Tillery in addition to freshman Kurt Hinish who Kelly admitted is ahead of classmate Darnell Ewell and will play this fall. Both Dew-Treadway and Hinish are a bit undersized for a traditional nose tackle, but both play very hard and could give Notre Dame same solid reps behind Tillery.
Notre Dame can’t get into a situation where they have too many subpackages play to play like they attempted in 2014 during Brian Vangorder’s first year at Notre Dame, but with the flexibility Notre Dame is starting to develop they could go week to week with different bases packages based on the opponent. They could go big with a line up with Jay Hayes and Trumbetti on the edges and Bonner and Tillery inside against power teams and then go smaller against pass first foes with Trumbetti on the edge and Hayes sliding inside.
Trumbetti’s cross training that Brian Kelly alluded to this weekend would allow Notre Dame that flexibility. Is that ideal? No. In an ideal world Notre Dame would have more depth across the line, but when has Notre Dame ever been in an ideal situation on the defensive line?
Tomorrow Greg will pick up the discussion on whether or not all the movement and patch working Elko and Elston will be doing will lead to the line being better or worse as part of our ongoing series.