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Notre Dame Football: 17 for ‘17 - The Return of Tight End U

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We’re 53 days away from kickoff, let’s talk some predictions for the 2017 season.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Temple Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

In the weeks leading up to the kickoff with the Temple Owls on September 2nd, here at OFD we’ll be giving you 17 predictions for the 2017 season for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Without further ado, let’s get to it.

No. 1: The Return of Tight End U

Last season I wrote about this for another Notre Dame blog, but I’m serious this time. The 2017 season will mark the return of Tight End U. Yeah, I turned out to be absolutely wrong last season, as ND tight ends combined for 11 receptions, 159 yards and four touchdowns. Now, those numbers probably would have been different if Alize Jones Mack had been eligible, but it didn’t play out that way.

In the first four seasons of the Brian Kelly regime, the tight end was prominently featured — how could it not have been with players like Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Eifert? For the first time since Eifert, the Irish have big-time talent back at the position. Couple that with a promising quarterback like Brandon Wimbush, and you have the perfect combination for the return of Tight End U.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame vs Navy Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

First-year offensive coordinator Chip Long factors into this prediction as well. Long has a track record of success with tight ends. Not only has he been a tight end coach for the past nine seasons, but he also played tight end at Division II power North Alabama. With Long calling the plays this season, you’ll see a lot more calls to Mack, Durham Smythe or Nic Weishar.

On Tuesday, Mack and Smythe were named to the Mackey Award watch list, the award for the nation’s best tight end.

With the return of Mack, to go along with Smythe, Weishar, and freshmen Brock Wright and Cole Kmet, Notre Dame will have one of the best tight end groups in the nation in 2017, and will once again earn the moniker of Tight End U.