The tight end position at Notre Dame has long been one that’s seen talented athletes deliver for the Irish and then move on to the NFL. It’s happened six times in the Brian Kelly era, with multiple players this season potentially becoming the seventh player on that list. In this year’s camp, the Cole Kmet injury to his collarbone has opened up a major opportunity for redshirt freshman Tommy Tremble to become the latest success story.
Tremble doesn’t have a clear path to the starting role for the opener at Louisville, especially given the presence of an experienced hand like Brock Wright, who has two years worth of game experience. That may give him the edge in the eyes of the Notre Dame coaching staff, even though.Tremble would make an inviting target for Ian Book.
Possessing a football bloodline, Tremble’s father, Greg, played for the Georgia Bulldogs and then one season in the NFL. That should make for an interesting family dynamic when the Irish and Bulldogs clash on September 21. However, the more immediate concern for the younger Tremble is finding a way to use his ample skills to benefit the Irish against both Louisville and New Mexico.
Finding His Way to Notre Dame
Tremble made his first visit to Notre Dame the same weekend as the 2017 game against Southern Cal, with that 49-14 Irish rout allowing him to see a Kelly squad clicking on all cylinders. That was apparently enough to convince Tremble since he officially committed two months later.
Fitting in that visit in the middle of the football season would normally be a difficult proposition, but Tremble’s final high school season came to an abrupt end after just two games when he suffered a broken ankle. At the time of the visit, the Irish were battling primarily Michigan, with UCLA another rival in the recruiting wars.
Cooling His Heels
Last season, Notre Dame entered the year with some question marks at tight end, which offered the prospect of Tremble taking the field as a true freshman. The reason stemmed from Alize Mack’s two inconsistent seasons at the position, numbers that were reflected in a sparse 32 grabs during that time.
However, Mack bounced back to surpass that two-year total and finish with 36 catches on the year, though only a few of his receptions went for big yardage. He also found the end zone three times, which cooled any thoughts of using Tremble and thereby wiping out a year of eligibility.
Spring Practice Breakthrough
With Mack no longer in the picture, some breathing room for Tremble emerged last spring after another Cole Kmet injury occurred. This time, the problem was with his ankles, but his inactivity opened the door for the redshirt to get the attention of both the coaching staff and his teammates. Tremble rode that momentum into fall camp where he was impressing even before the Kmet injury.
Having arrived at Notre Dame at the bottom rung of the depth chart that had plenty of talent on it, that development offers hints that Tremble can find a way to become a regular feature of the 2019 offense. He’s undoubtedly going to see time against Louisville, and there’s really no reason to rush Kmet back against a weak New Mexico squad. That’s especially true, given the Georgia game the following week.
The Battle Ahead
Standing in his way is Wright, who has game experience, but has just two receptions for 12 yards in a Notre Dame uniform. One of those happened to be for a touchdown in the Wake Forest, but it’s clear that blocking is truly where he excels. That certainly won’t hurt if the Irish choose to focus on their running attack, but it doesn’t offer Book another receiving option if his main target is unavailable.
The reality is that both will see plenty of time in Kmet’s absence, with Wright’s blocking aiding a running game now led by Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones. Passing downs offer the Irish the chance to actually have a third option in Tremble, since Kmet is also more of a blocker. The most apparent evidence of that can be seen in the 17 catches during his two seasons with the Irish.
Investing in the Future
Tommy Tremble remains a work in progress when it comes to blocking ability, so he’s not likely to emerge as the key component of this unit during the season. Yet getting his feet wet during the first few weeks of the season could help pay dividends for Notre Dane down the road.