In this installment of our massively popular, in Finland, series, Know Thyself, Know Thy Enemy, I address the tight end position. Hello, tight end position! If there’s any group on this year’s squad where the Irish lack experience, this is it. And, for those of you who have been following the Boys from the ‘Bend for a few years, it’s unlike the Irish to have a lack of experience at tight end. Perhaps a victim of its own success, “Tight End U” has four former tight ends in the NFL right now and six drafted in the last decade.
Heading into the season, Notre Dame has six tight ends on the roster: Chase Hounsell, Ben Suttman, Durham Smythe, Nic Weishar, and Alizé Jones. See? Not a lot of big game experience. So, leaping with gusto onto my Jump To Conclusions mat, may I please present, if you will, this:
The Irish: I’m going to go with the sophomore Nic Weishar here. Why? Well, for one, he’s had a great set of practices and has taken absolutely every advantage of Alize’s absence from the rotation due to injury. For two, Weishar looks the part. At 6’4″, 241, the sophomore, a redshirt last year, is a touch shorter than some of his predecessors. For three, the kid’s got a toughness of heart rare in a young man of his age. Losing an older brother to colorectal cancer could derail many young athletes, but Nic has managed to not just move on, but to thrive.
Durham Smythe brings the only experience the Irish have at the group while Alizé Jones is clearly the most physically-gifted of the bunch. His right hand is the size of a first baseman’s mitt and his vertical leap is thirty-four inches, making most non-commercial flying machines within his impressive reach. In fact had he not been bit by the injury-bug in practice, I would have probably gone with Jones, all other things considered. While Smythe or Jones might have been the safe or sexy picks at this position, don’t be surprised to see number eighty-two on the highlight reels this season.
The Enemy: If the Irish are inexperienced at tight end, their opponents this year aren’t exactly a murderer’s row, either. The best of the bunch, though, is Stanford’s Austin Hooper. A redshirt freshman last year, he caught forty balls for 499 yards and two touchdowns. He will feature in a very young combo with Dalton Schultz, the nation’s number one recruit at the position in 2014, and should feast on smaller defenders throughout the season. He’s listed at 6’5″ and 249 pounds, and, if you look at the right place, so is Nic Weishar. Frankly, though the Tree is in a bit of a slump at tight end, Hooper is bringing them out of it and you can bet he’ll be a second- or third-round draft pick whenever he leaves.