Brian Kelly Talks Which Notre Dame Freshmen Will Play in 2020 (Assuming There’s Season)

For at least one more day, we have some Notre Dame football to talk about. As two-fifths of the Power 5 have shut down and smaller conferences and other sports cancel the fall season; the ACC, SEC, and Big 12 continue to forge forward for now with the hope that they’ll play football in the fall. And with that, Brian Kelly and Notre Dame held practice today and Kelly spoke to the media about which freshman will play this fall assuming anyone for Notre Dame actually plays this fall.

The first name that Kelly mentioned when asked about freshmen who could contribute this fall was 5-star tight end, Michael Mayer. “(Michael) Mayer is a guy that has an innate ability, size, quickness, escapability as he releases off the line of scrimmage,” Kelly said. “He’s a pretty impressive young man in everything he’s done.”

Heading into camp, the top two tight end spots would seem to be pretty well locked down with Tommy Tremble playing the role of dynamic receiving tight end and Brock Wright playing the role of the more traditional, in-line blocking tight end. Both are battle-tested and in Tremble’s case, a breakout season is expected. It sounds as though Mayer might be too talented to keep off the field though.

Mayer wasn’t the only tight end that Kelly mentioned either. “(Kevin) Bauman. Here’s a guy who, if he’s not coming in at the same time as Mayer, everybody’s talking about him,” Kelly said of the other tight end in Notre Dame’s class of 2020. “He is a really good tight end. He’s a guy I don’t think we can hold off the field either – very, very impressed with him early on.”

Notre Dame landed perhaps the best tight end class in the country this past recruiting cycle and it sounds like the early impressions of both are very promising.

Sticking on the offensive of the ball, Kelly also mentioned speedy freshman running back, Chris Tyree. “Tyree (had) over 1,000 points this summer – a lot stronger than we thought in terms of lower body strength,” Kelly said. The points are a reference to a player’s performance in off-season training activities. The bit about Tyree being stronger than they expected is much more significant though.

“He’s not a specialist. He’s not a guy who just plays in the slot or hand sweeps,” Kelly said. “He’s a guy that can run the football for you downhill between the tackles,” he added before cautioning, “He’s not going to get 30 carries, don’t get me wrong, but he’s a guy who is going to play as a freshman. He’s been impressive.”

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Tyree was given the #25 upon his arrival at Notre Dame. That is a number that carries with it some serious expectations for a player known for their speed. Hopefully, Irish fans are able to see that speed this fall.

Kelly also made mention of one of the two offensive linemen the Irish signed last year. “Offensive linemen – it’s a process for those guys – but early glimpses of Carmody, he’s got some really nice traits that I think are going to translate very well for us.”

Tosh Baker was the more highly rated recruit of the two offensive linemen so it was interesting to hear Kelly mention Michael Carmody by name after the first practice.

Switching over to the defensive side of the ball, Kelly didn’t mention anyone by name, but he did single out a position groun.

“From a defensive standpoint, the corners look really good,” he said. “They’ve got length. They’re all young, but they’re all guys that are going to compete for us. Whether or not they play as freshmen is certainly not needed, but we’ve been impressed with the corners in terms of their length and athletic ability.

One name that was interesting that Kelly did not mention was star wide receiver recruit, Jordan Johnson. Johnson is the highest-rated receiver recruit of the Brian Kelly era and with the injury to Kevin Austin, it would seem like that could open the door for early playing time for Johnson. Kelly did not, however, mention Johnson.

That doesn’t mean that Johnson is far from playing time though. Kelly usually uses the questions on freshman playing time early in camp as a bit of a motivational tool. It still should not surprise anyone if Johnson were to see the field this fall – well that is if anyone sees the field that is.

Rumors continued to swirl on Thursday about the ACC possibility reconsidering their stance on playing football this fall, but as of Thursday night, the conference is still moving forward. As such, we’ll continue to try and talk football as much as we can, as long as we can.

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