Reviewing the Redshirts is an off-season series meant to resurrect discussion around the current Irish freshmen who did not play in 2013.
There were 13 this year who retained a year of eligibility and today we take a look at a young tight end who could be playing a lot of minutes in 2014.
TE, Durham Smythe
Hometown: Belton, Texas
Height: 6-4 1/2
247Sports COMPOSITE RANKING:
4-star, No. 8 TE, No. 36 TX, No. 250 USA, 0.9056 score
Need at Position: High
Expected Spot on 2014 Depth Chart: 2nd String
Here's what OFD Recruiting guru Jim Miesle had to say about Smythe following last year's National Signing Day:
Smythe is the second guy in this group that I gave a much higher grade to than the rest of our reviewers. Upon watching his highlights, I was immediately reminded of the way that Tyler Eifert played the position, especially in 2010 when he came out of nowhere to replace an injured Kyle Rudolph. Given his size and pass-catching ability, he is an every-down TE of the future for the Irish. I think he probably sits out this fall (unless there are injuries among the TE corps) in order to put on 15-20 lbs, but should make his way up the depth chart quickly and spend a few years as the #1 TE option for the Irish.
If you recall, Smythe was a late decommit from Texas and visited South Bend less than 2 weeks prior to Signing Day ultimately giving Notre Dame his pledge two days later on January 27th. Ho-hum, another 4-star tight end signed with the Fighting Irish.
Miesle really liked him coming out of high school and there were plenty of reasons to feel that way: Good size, fluid athlete, smart route runner with nice hands. Shortly before the bowl game against Rutgers head coach Brian Kelly agreed and wasn't shy heaping praise on the young Texan:
"Durham Smythe is a really good football player. He's got outstanding ball skills. He's going to continue to get bigger and stronger. I don't want to over-hype Durham. But he has some really unique ball skills for that position. As long as he continues to develop and get stronger physically, and he doesn't get into a hybrid position in terms of not getting strong enough to play as an in-line tight end, he's going to be an exceptional player."
Kelly is usually reserved when making such strong comments about his players so this is a pretty good indication that big things are on the horizon for Smythe.
He's got solid size for an academic freshman so that's not going to be an issue in the fall. Even with a decreased emphasis in two tight end sets Smythe should see the field quite a bit as a change of pace to Koyack or while giving the senior a blow. From the sound of things it appears Brian Kelly is pleased with Koyack but he won't be able to carry this position by himself.
I'll take Kelly's advice and not over-hype Smythe. My guess he has a real nice redshirt freshman season with 8 to 12 receptions and 1 touchdown. Something in that ballpark sounds about right. It won't blow anyone away but remember Troy Niklas only caught 5 passes in 2012 as a often-used backup.