Notre Dame had an unmistakable offensive identity in 2020 – they were a run-first, ground and pound offense that employed two and three tight end sets more than almost anyone else in the country. That could change in 2021 following Tommy Tremble’s announcement last night that he is leaving for the NFL after his junior year on the heels of Brock Wright’s decision to move on to the NFL as well earlier this week.
There was a lot of hope that Tremble would return in 2021 after the junior was not a significant focus of the passing game this fall. The thought being Tremble could have been more featured in the passing game and improve his draft stock. However, tremble’s draft projections already have him as high as a 2nd round pick, given his elite blocking skills.
Notre Dame still has Michael Mayer for two more years, and after the most impressive freshman season from any Notre Dame tight end in program history, he could be poised for an All-American type season. After Mayer, however, Notre Dame is going to be very light on experience at the position,
Senior George Takacs enrolled at Notre Dame with Tremble with a similarly impressive resume. He was a US Army All-American, a composite 4-star recruit, and the #283 overall rated prospect in the country according to 247Sports. He will only bing five career receptions for 42 yards and one touchdown into the season, though.
Outside of Takacs, the only other returning tight end is rising sophomore Kevin Bauman. In some other years, Bauman may have gotten more playing time. He enrolled along with perhaps a generational talent at the position in Mayer, though, so he didn’t see the field much this fall. Bauman was also a 4-star recruit and ranked #236 in the country overall (#6 tight end) by 247Sports.
Notre Dame did sign two tight ends last month – Cane Berrong and Mitchell Evans – the latter with the size to potentially play early as a blocking tight end. Both incoming freshmen enroll early at Notre Dame next month.
Between Mayer, Takacs, and Bauman, Notre Dame has the talent to continue the Tight End U tradition. The challenge, however, is the relative lack of experience in the group. Notre Dame was able to lean heavily on multiple tight end sets because it had one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country and a pair of tight ends in Wright and Tremble that had loads of experience as well. That will not be the case in 2021.
Notre Dame is looking at a near rebuild of its offensive line with four 2020 opening day starters off to the NFL. Four different returning linemen have starting experience to varying levels, but Jeff Quinn will be tasked with essentially getting an entirely new unit ready to play together.
Add all of this up, and it’s fair to question whether or not the Irish will be able to take the same run-first approach that utilizes as many multiple tight end sets. This could force the Irish to open the offense up more in Tommy Rees’s second season as the Fighting Irish’s offensive coordinator.
While Notre Dame loses three-year starting quarterback Ian Book to the NFL, they landed Wisconsin graduate-transfer Jack Coan earlier this week, giving them experience at the quarterback position. Coan isn’t necessarily a fun and gun type quarterback, but he is more than equipped to lead an offense that is more open than the one he ran at Wisconsin.
Tremble’s loss shouldn’t be overstated even though Notre Dame has a lot of talent – including a future first-round pick – at the position because it very well could impact the style of offense the Irish employ in 2021.