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Cole Kmet jumps to the NFL, with good reason

Cole Kmet Notre Dame

PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 30: Cole Kmet #84 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs with the ball against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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Notre Dame lost what could have been its best 2020 offensive weapon when junior tight end Cole Kmet declared for the NFL draft on Thursday. Kmet received a second-round draft evaluation from the NFL, making it logical to forgo not only his final season of football eligibility but also baseball this spring, where he worked as a relief pitcher.

Kmet caught 43 passes for 515 yards and six touchdowns this season, even though he missed the first two games with a broken collarbone. Upon his return, the Irish targeted him quickly and often, including three of their first four offensive snaps at Georgia.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision because while I am ready for the NFL, I was not sure I was ready to say goodbye to Notre Dame,” Kmet said. “The Notre Dame experience has exceeded all my expectations as a football and baseball player and as a student.”

In November, Kmet said he planned to return for his senior season, but most draft projections suggest he is the top tight end in the class, making this decision to turn pro a reasonable one, to say the least. He caught two passes for 33 yards in Notre Dame’s Camping World Bowl victory, though his ankle was rolled up on one of those. That may not have been a factor in this choice, but it certainly did not give Kmet reason to play another year without appropriate compensation.

Without Kmet, the Irish will lean on current sophomore Tommy Tremble, who is also now Notre Dame’s leading returning receiver with 16 catches for 183 yards and four touchdowns. Though not as polished as Kmet, Tremble represents a similar threat down the seam.

Unless current junior Brock Wright and/or current sophomore George Takacs turn into more fluid route-runners, incoming freshman four-star tight end Michael Mayer (Covington Catholic High School; Park Hills, Ky.) may become a key piece of the offense from the outset of his career.

Kmet’s departure brings the Irish scholarship count to 88 currently expected in the fall.

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