Notre Dame’s seven early enrollees received their jersey numbers before Notre Dame’s one and only spring practice while the rest of the class of 2020 got their numbers before Notre Dame’s first fall practice today. Speedy freshman running back Chris Tyree, a prime candidate for a large role this fall (if there is a season) will be wearing #25 – a significant number for a player with speed.
Any time a fast Notre Dame player gets #25 the Rocket Ismail comparisons are inevitable. The Rocket was the epitome of speed for the Irish in the late ’80s and early 90’s as an integral member of Notre Dame’s powerhouse teams under Lou Holtz. While Tyree isn’t playing the same position as Rocket, the comparisons will be made.
Chris Tyree has the kind of speed that Notre Dame had historically lacked for the better part of the last couple of decades. That has changed a bit in recent years even if some lazy college football beat writers haven’t noticed.
You don’t even have to go too far to find a Notre Dame player with elite speed wearing #25. Junior wide receiver Braden Lenzy donned 25 for the last two seasons while displaying game-breaking speed. Greg even advocated for the Irish to run their offense around that speed recently in a Rocket-esque capacity. Lenzy changed his number to 0 in the offseason opening up the option for Tyree to take it on.
Notre Dame’s given the #25 to some other players with speed since The Rocket though most haven’t panned out. Munir Prince allegedly had “whoooosh” speed according to Charlie Weis, but Prince ultimately transferred. Jonas Gray also wore #25 though and he had a much more productive career before his senior season was cut short with an injury.
Let’s get back to Tyree though. There is a role for him in this year’s offense if he is ready for it. Notre Dame’s official roster for fall camp lists Tyree at 185 lbs so an every-down back type role seems out of the question. With questions in the backfield though, Tommy Rees and Lance Taylor would be remiss not to take advantage of Tyree’s speed in some capacity.
Significant contributions from true freshman running backs are not unheard of under Brian Kelly either. Josh Adams was thrust into a prominent role in 2015 and ended up setting the Notre Dame freshman rushing record with 835 yards on 117 attempts with six touchdowns including a Notre Dame record 98-yarder. In 2013, Tarean Folston ran the ball 88 times for 470 yards and 3 touchdowns.
If there is a season, Tyree likely won’t challenge Adams since that would require pretty high volume, but he will be a factor each week. He may not challenge The Rocket by the end of his career either – very few have ever had the kind of mark The Rocket had on the field. If he comes anywhere close to Adams as a freshman or Rocket for a career though, Notre Dame will have themselves one hell of a dynamic player.