Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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26 APRIL 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TIGHT ENDS F or the last three seasons, there has been a signifi- cant disconnect between what was expected from the Notre Dame tight ends based on preseason expectations and what actually was produced on the field. Notre Dame's tight end production has decreased year after year for three seasons. The Irish tight ends went from 31 catches for 324 yards in 2014 to just 12 receptions for 159 yards this past season. New offensive coordinator Chip Long has spent all offseason talking about how important the tight ends will be in his offense, but he does not return a player at the position that has proven himself to be a consistent force in the pass game. Alizé Jones is the centerpiece to Notre Dame's tight ends re-emerg- ing as a vital cog in the offense. He hauled in 13 passes for 190 yards as a true freshman in 2015, which led all tight ends. Notre Dame spent last spring building its offense around Jones in many ways, which made his season-long suspension that much harder to overcome. The Las Vegas native is a gifted pass catcher, one in the mold of former Irish All-American Tyler Eifert due to his ability to line up all over the field. At 6-5, he's a matchup nightmare for cornerbacks and safeties, and his speed makes it hard for linebackers to run with him. Now it is up to Jones to stay in good academic standing, improve his blocking ability and become a consistent playmaker. Jones emerging should allow Smythe to flourish in a comple- mentary role. Also competing for time are seniors Nic Weishar and Tyler Luatua, who will have just as hard of a time keeping highly rated freshman Brock Wright from passing them up as they will at pushing Smythe and Jones for playing time of their own. BY THE NUMBERS 3 Tight end recruits on the 2017 Irish roster that were among the top 150 players in the country as high school seniors. Freshmen Brock Wright (No. 44 in 2017), Cole Kmet (No. 95 in 2017) and Alizé Jones (No. 133 in 2015) were all four-star prospects. 45 The number of players named to the Mackey Award watch list in 2016, which honors college football's pre- mier tight end. Notre Dame's Jones was on that list. 159 Combined receiving yards for Notre Dame's tight ends in 2016, a number that was surpassed by the then- freshman Jones (190 yards) in 2015. POSITION BATTLE TO WATCH Fifth-year senior Durham Smythe is the most experienced tight end on the roster, and his nine catches for 112 yards and four touchdowns made up the vast majority of the team's production at the position in 2016. Smythe is a solid all-around player, but in order to maintain his starting role he will have to fend off more explosive junior Alizé Jones, who is without question the most athletic tight end on the roster and its top pass catcher. Jones provides the offense with its best chance for an impact player at tight end, but thus far he has lacked Smythe's focus and blocking ability. WHO'S GONE Jacob Matuska The little-used former lineman appeared primarily on special teams. WHO'S BACK Fifth-year senior Durham Smythe The 15-game starter caught nine passes for 112 yards and four touchdowns as the team's top tight end in 2016. Junior Alizé Jones After serving a one-year academic sus- pension, the talented pass catcher returns to bolster a deep tight end group. Senior Nic Weishar Served primarily as a blocker as Notre Dame's No. 2 tight end in 2016. TOP NEWCOMERS Freshman Brock Wright The nation's top tight end prospect ar- rives at Notre Dame with the size and strength to push for immediate playing time, especially as an in-line blocker. 2017 SPRING FOOTBALL PREVIEW Returning Returning Year-End Year Starts Receiving Yards/TD Receiving Yards/TD 2016 5 44/1 159/4 2017 23 393/5 — QUOTABLE "It creates a lot of big mismatches and the ability to do that really fast causes problems for the defense. We're able to play that game and play it to our advantage. The ability that we're going to have to pos- sibly run the ball, it's going to be a whole lot of fun." — OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR/TIGHT ENDS COACH CHIP LONG ON PLAYING TWO TIGHT ENDS ALIZÉ JONES PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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