Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 23 Drue Tranquill, linebacker and two-time captain
Listed Measurements: 6-foot-2, 233 pounds
2018-19 year, eligibility: In his fifth year, Tranquill has only this season of eligibility remaining. The added year of eligibility comes from Tranquill missing three-quarters of the 2015 season after suffering a knee injury in only the third game.
Depth chart: Tranquill will start as the Buck linebacker, moving inward from last year’s rover duties. This should suit his run-fit talents very well while providing Notre Dame a veteran presence in the middle of the defense.
Recruiting: It is somewhat ironic that a promise of playing time at safety convinced Tranquill to flip his commitment to Notre Dame from Purdue; he will finish his career with two full seasons at linebacker. The rivals.com three-star prospect held offers from Penn State, Wisconsin and Minnesota and was rated the No. 32 safety in the country.
CAREER TO DATE
Initially it seemed Tranquill’s career would be marked by his knee injuries, one a fluke caused by a celebration and another the result of an end zone pass breakup. They turned a promising freshman season into a massive question mark entering Tranquill’s junior year.
He can now claim 25 consecutive starts and will serve as a two-time captain this season. Put simply, Tranquill redefined his career against most odds.
In the rover role last season, Tranquill served as the defense’s most-prolific playmaker, trailing only then-junior Te’von Coney in tackles for loss and adding a number of pass breakups and hands in fumbles.
2014: 11 games, three starts; 33 tackles with one for loss and half a sack. The safety also forced a fumble, picked off a pass and blocked a punt, foreshadowing his playmaking days to come. Celebrating that interception resulted in his first ACL tear.
2015: Three games, at which point Tranquill suffered his second ACL tear. He made nine tackles with 2.5 for loss before his season ended.
2016: 12 games, 12 starts; 79 tackles with two for loss and one interception.
2017: 13 games, 13 starts; 85 tackles with 10.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries and three pass breakups.
Tranquill’s move to Buck raised two questions. How would he adjust to the inside position, and how could the position be adjusted to his skillset?
“I hate to say it looks natural, but it’s come easy to him,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in late March. “Sometimes it’s a hard fit for a guy that plays on the edge, moving inside with his reads, but he’s been really good.”
Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea echoed those sentiments without hesitation.
“On Drue, I think he’s handled the position really well,” Lea said the week before the Blue-Gold Game. “It’s a fit for him. That is a big, strong, explosive player that handles himself well from tackle-to-tackle. That position also has to play in space, too, so some of the things he learned and honed as a rover are applying to what he’s doing at Buck.”
As for how the position might shift with a more agile option compared to last year’s duo of Coney and Greer Martini, it ties into the playing in space mentioned by Lea.
“You feel like you can do more with him in that role because you know what he’s done [at rover], and now there’s confined space,” Lea said. “Those are subtle things, not drastic. As you craft defense, you recognize his skills.”
In essence, Lea may trust Tranquill to set an edge without support or make a read in the flat more than he would the normal Buck.
WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“Tranquill’s greatest struggles as a safety came in covering deep. For all his athletic traits — strong, solidly built, quick first step — he is not exceptionally fleet of foot. At rover, that should not be as much of a concern, at least not in theory.
“The rover won’t be covering deep. It should be as simple as that. Sure, an occasional unexpected go route here or there is always possible, but by and large, Tranquill will have two safeties behind him providing both support and speed, rather than him being one of those two safeties.
“One has to wonder what consequence follows removing that concern from Tranquill’s mind. Already an instinctual player, he should have no encumbrance remaining as he flies to the ball. Lining him up next to [Nyles] Morgan will put two physical, proven tacklers in the middle of the defense. If nothing else, it will be intriguing to see which finishes the season as the Irish leading tackler, a title without reward but a notable one, nonetheless.”
Moving Tranquill to Buck serves both the individual and the team. It convinced Tranquill to return for his final season and burgeon his NFL résumé at a position he would project at in the minds of most front offices. It also solved a depth issue facing Lea. Notre Dame has a few options at rover, but it did not have another viable possibility at Buck.
The nature of the position may diminish Tranquill’s tackles for loss, pass breakups and interceptions, but that will not mean his impact will be any less. Tranquill’s tackle total should rise once more, which is genuinely saying something coming off a year in which he finished third on the team.
If the final answer at rover proves a solid one, then this position switch will be the key to the Irish having a truly stout front seven.
DOWN THE ROAD
Somewhere, another acknowledgement of Tranquill’s tenure as a two-time captain should be mentioned. If he starts 13 games this season, his career will end with 38 consecutive starts in 52 games. He may have been maligned as a safety, but Tranquill’s first year at linebacker was an outstanding one and there is every reason to believe 2018 will replicate that effort, again with the additional duty of putting up with the media more often than any other teammate.
The only piece of that which genuinely applies to the NFL perspective will be the 38 consecutive starts. (Knock on wood.) Tranquill has gone from an injury concern to a reliable tackler.
If he is to have a career at the next level, it will be as an interior linebacker — he simply is not fast enough to serve in an outside role. Thus, this fall is basically an extended audition, more so than the usual fifth-year senior’s final stroll through college.
NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 99 Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle, senior
No. 98 Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 97 Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle, senior
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 94 Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 91 Ade Ogundeji, defensive end, junior
No. 89 Brock Wright, tight end, sophomore
No. 88 Javon McKinley, receiver, junior
No. 87 Michael Young, receiver, sophomore
No. 86 Alizé Mack, tight end, senior
No. 85 George Takacs, tight end, early-enrolled freshman
No. 85 Tyler Newsome, punter and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 84 Cole Kmet, tight end, sophomore
No. 83 Chase Claypool, receiver, junior
No. 82 Nic Weishar, tight end, fifth-year senior
No. 81 Miles Boykin, receiver, senior
No. 80 Micah Jones, receiver, early-enrolled freshman
No. 78 Tommy Kraemer, right guard, junior
No. 76 Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 75 Josh Lugg, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 74 Liam Eichenberg, starting left tackle, junior
No. 72 Robert Hainsey, right tackle, sophomore
No. 71 Alex Bars, left guard and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 70 Luke Jones, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 69 Aaron Banks, offensive tackle, sophomore
No. 68 Jarrett Patterson, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 60 Cole Mabry, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 57 Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman, senior
No. 57 (theoretically) Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 56 John Dirksen, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 55 Jonathan Bonner, defensive tackle, fifth-year senior
No. 54 John Shannon, long snapper, junior
No. 53 Khalid Kareem, defensive end, junior
No. 53 Sam Mustipher, center and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 52 Bo Bauer, linebacker, early-enrolled freshman
No. 47 Kofi Wardlow, defensive end, sophomore
No. 45 Jonathan Jones, linebacker, junior
No. 44 Jamir Jones, defensive end, junior
No. 42 Julian Okwara, defensive end, junior
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 40 Drew White, linebacker, sophomore
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, kickoff specialist, sophomore
No. 34 Jahmir Smith, running back, early-enrolled freshman
No. 33 Shayne Simon, linebacker, incoming freshman
No. 31 Jack Lamb, linebacker, early-enrolled freshman
No. 30 Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, linebacker, sophomore
No. 29 Ovie Oghoufo, linebacker, early-enrolled freshman
No. 28 Nicco Fertitta, safety, senior
No. 27 Julian Love, cornerback, junior, second-team All-American
No. 25 Braden Lenzy, receiver, incoming freshman
No. 24 Tommy Tremble, tight end, incoming freshman
No. 24 Nick Coleman, defensive back, senior
No. 35 David Adams, linebacker, sophomore
No. 11 Freddy Canteen, receiver, outgoing transfer
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