Position group breakdown: Tight End
Observer Sports Staff | Wednesday, April 15, 2020
In 2019, the ever-important tight end position quickly became synonymous with Cole Kmet when he returned from his collarbone injury for the game against Georgia. With new position coach John McNulty taking the reins, the 2020 group will look to match Kmet’s production from last season.
Position group: Tight End
Depth Chart: freshmen Michael Mayer, Kevin Bauman; rising juniors Tommy Tremble, George Takacs; rising senior Brock Wright
Key 2019 Departures:
Kmet has been on the field for the Irish since his freshman season in 2017, when he appeared in all 13 games. In 2018, he made 15 catches for 162 yards in 11 games. Then, in 2019, upon his return from a broken collarbone, Kmet had his strongest season yet. With 108 receiving yards and a touchdown in his first game back, earning himself the Mackey Award for Tight End of the Week, Kmet made a name for himself early in the season and thus for the Irish offense. Kmet then followed with a touchdown in four straight games and perfect catch percentages against both Stanford and Southern Cal. His reliability and productivity will surely be missed by the Irish offense.
Key 2020 Contributors
Wright has been present over the same stretch as Kmet, and was the No. 1 tight end recruit in his class while Kmet was No. 3. He contributed both on offense and on special teams, as he recovered the game-sealing onside kickoff in a 30-27 victory over USC. As a versatile player, he played in 11 and 12 games in his freshman and sophomore years, respectively. In his sophomore season, he recorded his only career touchdown in a 56-27 rout of Wake Forest, and in 2019 he had a career-long 40-yard reception in the 52-0 shutout of Bowling Green.
The issue for Wright is that those two catches are half of his career total. The question will be whether or not he will finally live up to the potential recruiters saw in him and possibly fill the void Kmet has left.
The No. 20 tight end in the 2018 class per Rivals.com, Tremble had a breakout season in 2019 after spending his freshman season on the scout team. With 16 catches for 183 yards and four touchdowns, Tremble quickly became a force to be reckoned with. He played in all thirteen games and earned himself the game ball at Louisville after making three receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown. If Tremble can carry that same energy into the 2020 season, he has a good chance to be the go-to tight end.
Takacs also did not see the field in his freshman year, as he and Tremble helped the scout team during game preparation. In his sophomore year though, he took the field in the first home game of the 2019 season against New Mexico. With a pair of catches under his belt, one of which was a touchdown against Duke, the former 11th-ranked tight end from 2018 has a chance to have an even more successful 2020 season.
Michael Mayer and Kevin Bauman
There will be new faces at the position as well, as Mayer and Bauman will join the Irish this year. The pair of four-star recruits bring promising talent to the Irish roster. They boast 84 receptions, 1657 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns between the two of them in their senior campaigns. Mayer and Bauman were the No. 2 and No. 5 tight ends respectively in the 2020 class, with Mayer being named Kentucky’s Mr. Football and the MVP of the state class 5A championship game. Both figure to contribute at least in a redshirt capacity next season for the Irish.
Hayden Adams — Sports Editor
How do you replace the likely No. 1 tight end off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft and his 43 receptions for 515 yards and six touchdowns? I’d be lying if I said it would be easy. Cole Kmet’s departure is a tremendous loss if for no other reason than he would provide a safety valve for Ian Book to go to with Chase Claypool gone and an unproven receiving corps behind him. Tommy Tremble showed solid play at the beginning and end of the year sandwiched around a midseason-long disappearance offensively. Brock Wright was the No. 1 tight end recruit in the same class as Kmet, but he has only four receptions and one touchdown to his name in three seasons played, and he regressed as a blocker last season.
George Takacs can contribute, and Michael Mayer certainly will as highly touted as he is, but much like the receivers, this unit is unproven. That said, Kmet burst onto the scene from almost out of nowhere, so any one of these guys could do the same thing. I’ll have faith that newly appointed tight end coach John McNulty can help “Tight End U” maximize the production out of its trademark position. B+
Jimmy Ward — Associate Sports Editor
“Tight End U” may be on the tail end of their prolific record. The Irish have always produced top-level players at this position and I have high expectations for Wright, Tremble and even Takacs — whose snag against Duke was personally one of the most memorable throws Book made on the season. The game was all but over and the Irish held a 31-7 lead over the ACC foe, but it was during the time when Book was catching a lot of heat from just about anyone and everyone. He overlooked a wide open Brock Wright to throw to a well covered Takacs who made a leaping grab at the back end of the end zone. As much as Book’s oversight infuriated me, the result made me feel a million times better as it gave me trust not only in Book’s throwing ability but Takacs’ catching ability.
This position group does lack depth however, and the gritty tight end position is not one any team wants to lack depth in. Hopefully the Irish can establish themselves early on in the first couple games of the season and give the fresh faces of Michael Mayer and Kevin Bauman a chance to get some playing time below their belt. The loss of Kmet will be the first issue that John McNulty will need to face. And with such a long time away from the practice field it is hard to tell how a new coach will deal with fresh players. However, I do have faith in the current ‘leaders’ at the position, though it will be interesting to see if ‘Tight End U’ can make a quick turnaround without their pride and joy. B+
Mannion McGinley — Sports Writer
The loss of Kmet from this Irish roster will be an obvious setback for the position. It will just be a question of Tremble continuing to take over while Takacs and Wright step up to the plate. The main problem is a depth issue. Despite the talent, this is a very injury prone position, and at the very least the group is going to fatigue through 12 games. That can lead to a pressing need for deep talent, and it doesn’t seem as though the position has that this year. With that being said, the group the Irish do have is promising, so if all goes well, these tight ends should succeed this year. B
Gregory McKenna — Sports Writer
Kmet’s reversal on his earlier statements about remaining at Notre Dame for the 2020 season put a huge dent in outside expectations for the Irish, especially given Ian Book’s affinity for throwing short and reliance on both Claypool and Kmet in big moments last year. The tight end group still has three players who were ranked in the top-5 of their respective recruiting classes though, so their should theoretically be adequate talent to replace Kmet. It remains to be seen, however, whether Brian Kelly will trust four-stars Mayer and Bauman as true freshmen. If the Irish offense wants to avoid embarrassments against Wisconsin or Clemson reminiscent of the 2018 Cotton Bowl or last season’s debacle at the Big House, Wright will need to emerge as a consistent leader alongside substantial contributions from Tremble or Takacs. B