Notre Dame football has rightfully earned the moniker of Tight End U over the last 20 years for continually producing NFL-ready tight ends. That will continue in April with the 2021 NFL Draft while the talent left at the position in 2021 is more than capable of continuing that tradition.
Notre Dame Tight Ends Leaving
Notre Dame was hopeful that it might get at least one of its NFL eligible tight ends back in 2021, but unfortunately, both decided to pursue the NFL.
- Tommy Tremble – 35 receptions, 401 yards, 4 TDs
- Brock Wright – 7 receptions, 78 yards, 1 TD
Tommy Tremble left Notre Dame after this true junior season with technically three years of eligibility left due to the free year in 2020. Tremble flashed as a receiver in 2019 in place of an injured Cole Kmet to start the season, but since Kmet’s return in 2019, Tremble took a backburner in the passing game. He did the same in 2020 with freshman phenom Michael Mayer exploding on to the scene.
There was hope that the Irish staff could sell Tremble on being more involved in the passing game in 2021 to lure him back. Unfortunately, Tremble decided to head to the NFL instead, resulting in Notre Dame losing perhaps the best blocking tight end in all of college football in 2020. Those blocking skills are what have NFL scouts excited about Tremble.
Wright could have returned in 2021 for a 5th year thanks to the NCAA’s free year policy in 2020, but like Tremble, he decided it was his time to head to the NFL. Unlike Tremble, Wright doesn’t have quite the body of work to go off of, and his path to the NFL might lead him through the undrafted free agent route.
Notre Dame Tight Ends Returning
Similar to 2020, Notre Dame has three tight ends returning in 2021 without counting incoming freshmen. This year’s trio, however, is a bit more inexperienced than last year’s. It also features a potential All-American.
- Michael Mayer – 42 receptions, 450 yards, 2 TDs (4 years eligibility)
- George Takacs – 5 receptions, 42 yards, 1 TD (3 years eligibility)
- Kevin Bauman – 1 reception, 5 yards, 0 TD (4 years eligibility)
Michael Mayer bust on to the scene at Notre Dame like no other freshman tight end we’ve seen suit up for the Fighting Irish in 20 years. From opening day, it was clear that Mayer, nicknamed Baby Gronk by teammates much to some fans’ chagrin, would be a focal point of the Irish offense. He tied for the team lead with 42 receptions and placed second with 450 yards – the most by a freshman tight end in Notre Dame football history.
Against Alabama in the College Football Playoffs, Michael Mayer was one of the few Irish offensive players who looked like they could start for the Crimson Tide. He heads into his sophomore year with the potential to be an All-American. Regardless of who starts at quarterback, Mayer is going to put up numbers. If it’s Jack Coan, a veteran quarterback will get the ball to a weapon like Mayer. If it’s one of the young quarterbacks, first-time starters almost always tend to default to their tight ends.
Tight Ends Enrolling at Notre Dame
Just like last year, Notre Dame is adding two tight ends to its roster from the Class of 2021, both of whom are enrolling early.
- Cane Berrong – 4-star, #225 overall
- Mitchell Evans – 3-star, #491 overall
Cane Berrong is an exciting prospect for Notre Dame. It looked like Berrong would challenge for being the #1 ranked tight end in the country two years ago. In April 2019, Berrong was the #59 overall prospect in the country according to 247Sports Composite Rankings. He gradually fell to #225 overall, though before all was said and done.
Of the two tight ends in this Notre Dame football recruiting class, Berrong is the more accomplished receiver. He’s not quite the natural receiver that Mayer is, but very few are.
Mitchell Evans’s frame screams future offensive tackle at 6’7’, 240 lbs already, but Notre Dame has recruited him as a tight end, and he played quarterback in high school, so he is more than athletic enough to have a career at tight end. Since he played quarterback in high school, he is not as polished a receiver at the moment.
Notre Dame will probably need one of these two to play in 2021, given the NFL departures. Which one plays will depend on how the current tight ends develop. If Notre Dame needs more of a receiver, Berrong would be a natural choice. Evans has the larger frame if they need a blocker, even though he might be a bit raw.
Losing both Tremble and Wright when both could have technically returned was not ideal for Notre Dame. Had Tremble returned, he and Mayer would have been, hands down, the best tight end duo in the country. Mayer is a potential All-American, though, so losing Tremble isn’t the massive loss it would have been had Mayer not lived up to his nickname from week one.
Takacs will get the first crack at fling the role of Tommy Tremble next year. He won’t be asked to be a focal point in the passing game but will be on the field plenty if the Irish deploy a similar 12-personnel heavy offense in 2021. Given the talent at wide receiver, the offense could lean more on the passing game, but it would be a shock if they didn’t still use a lot of multiple tight end sets. Wisconsin quarterback transfer Jack Coan played comes from an offense that used multiple tights regularly as well.
Bauman will be interesting to watch in 2021 because, in any other year when Notre Dame didn’t bring in an All-American like Mayer, Bauman might have seen the field. If Bauman improves as a blocker, he could challenge Takacs for the #2 TE role, given he would give the Irish a bit more flexibility in the passing game.
Notre Dame is going to play multiple tight ends often again in 2021. They might not do it as often as they did in 2020 if someone like Kevin Austin or Jordan Johnson emerges as a legit WR1, but they won’t wholly diverge from it since it worked so well. That means Notre Dame will need at least Mayer, Takacs, and Bauman ready for week one. If history is any indicator, they will likely need one of the frosh to be prepared to play as well.