Film Room: Cole Kmet Expands The Notre Dame Offense
Notre Dame has not had a full offensive deck all season, and that remains true. Starting running back Jafar Armstrong remains out for the foreseeable future, and junior wide receiver Michael Young has yet to take a snap this season, although that is expected to change this weekend.
Against Georgia, however, the Irish welcomed back standout tight end Cole Kmet, who was expected to be a major force in the Irish offense this season. Kmet missed the first two games after suffering a broken clavicle early in fall camp.
Kmet made his impact felt immediately, catching three passes for 33 yards on the game’s opening drive. He finished the game with career highs with nine catches for 108 yards, marking the first time since 2010 (Kyle Rudolph) that a Notre Dame tight end topped 100 yards.
The addition of Kmet added a much-needed weapon to the Irish offense, which should continue as long as he stays healthy.
Where Kmet’s presence was first felt was on short underneath throws, where he used his combination of size, power and athletic skills to make plays.
Kmet quickly works across the field and gets into quarterback Ian Book’s line of sight. He uses his size/speed combination to work away from the Georgia linebacker, get the initial separation and then drag the defender for an extra seven yards.
Having a player with his size (6-5 1/2, 255) in the middle of the field is a great comfort for the quarterback, but his ability to get separation is what turns a 3-yard catch into a 10-yard chain-moving reception.
Getting Kmet going in these zones also helps the Irish offense beat the blitz, which you can see here:
Georgia brings a corner fire on this snap, and the linebackers bite hard on the run action. Book is quickly pressured by the end, but he sees Kmet racing across the field and hits him stride for a big play.
Once again, Kmet picks up yards after the catching, adding 10 more yards after he secured the catch.
This isn’t an overly difficult play for a tight end, but having a player like Kmet, who Book clearly trusts and has a rapport with, means when pressure comes the Irish quarterback is going to have a security blanket working the middle of the field.
Kmet did more than just work the middle of the field and the short zones, and that is where his impact was truly felt.
You can see the big tight end’s speed on this snap. Kmet quickly gets past the linebacker and into the zone between the backer and safety. This allows Book to quickly set his feet after the play-action and then snap the ball off into the open area.
A player with less speed would require more time to get down field, which would not only force Book to hold the ball longer, but would also give the safety more time to recover and get to the zone.
You can see another example of Kmet making a play up the seam here:
Georgia playing the seam with its linebacker, who does a good job widening Kmet out at the snap, but the Irish tight end does a good job working back inside and away from the corner and in front of the safety.
This play is impactful for a number of reasons, both in the game (it set up a touchdown) and from a big picture standpoint. One of the issues with Book is his unwillingness to attack down the field, especially over the middle. We saw in the spring and early in fall camp what we saw against Georgia, Book is far more comfortable getting the ball into that zone when Kmet is in the game.
We saw Book hit sophomore Tommy Tremble up the seam for a touchdown against Georgia, but that was a pretty wide open throw. The windows against Georgia were much tighter, like they will be against Virginia, USC, Michigan and other top teams on the schedule.
With Book having a weapon he’s comfortable going to in the tougher zones, which the offense needs him to attack more, will provide a boost. The next step is Book going into those zones even more, even when he’s not going to Kmet.
Notre Dame’s first three opponents spent a lot of time focusing on wide receiver Chase Claypool, but after Kmet’s performance against the Bulldogs there is now a second legitimate pass game weapon they must contend with. The more focus defenses put on Kmet, the harder it is to focus on Claypool, and the other wideouts will now get even more favorable matchups.
It’s just another way the return of the Irish tight end had and should continue to have a significant impact on the offense.