Freshman Chris Tyree Brings Home Run Talent To The Backfield
Notre Dame incoming freshman running back Chris Tyree has been a major topic of conversation among fans since the moment he committed to the Fighting Irish.
It has been a very long time since Notre Dame landed a running back with the home run ability that Tyree brings to the game. The fact Notre Dame has such a lightly regarded running back depth chart among many outsiders only heightens the excitement surrounding Tyree.
Tyree will do battle with a better backfield than what is perceived, but there can be no doubt, the Notre Dame coaches absolutely must do everything possible to get Tyree involved in 2020.
BIG PLAY POTENTIAL
One plus for the Notre Dame backfield is the diverse skills the returning players bring to the roster. One skill the unit lacks, however, is big-time speed, and that is why landing Tyree was so important. There are backs on the roster who can be effective, but none have the kind of speed or explosiveness that Tyree brings to the game.
Simply put, Tyree has the kind of speed that can change the game with one carry. He’s literally a threat to hit a home run every time the ball is snapped, and this is true as a runner, pass catcher and return man on special teams.
If Tyree is a regular part of the offense, and the staff can generate methods to get him the ball in space and with run calls that increase his chance to get vertical, his big-play ability is such that defenses would have to focus more on him than the other backs on the roster.
Once Tyree starts to make plays it will force defenses to pay more attention to him, which in turn makes it harder to focus on shutting him down in the run game/screen game and the pass catchers at wide receiver and tight end.
Being able to get Tyree and wide receiver Braden Lenzy on the field together as much as possible is something the staff should put a lot of focus on throughout the 2020 season.
MORE THAN SPEED
Although speed is the most appealing trait for Tyree, it’s not the only strength he brings to the game. Tyree has good vision, foot quickness and although not a hammer in the backfield, he’s more than willing to lower his shoulder and grind out tough yards.
Tyree has the ability to slash as a runner, using his speed and vision to churn out yards. Even when he’s not hitting home runs, his skills are still effective and he can be an effective player on all three downs.
The 5-10, 179-pound freshman was used as a slot receiver at times in high school, and it’s a role he could also take on at times at Notre Dame. He’s not the kind of route runner or pass catcher where he should be moved over on a full-time role, but he does have the ability to make plays behind the line and downfield enough to make him a dangerous weapon in the pass game.
NOT FULL TIME YET
Fans expecting Tyree to come in, take over the starting role and touch the ball 20 times a game are likely to be disappointed. He lacks the size and strength to be that kind of back, at least right away. He’s a tough runner, but he’s also undersized and is coming off a senior high school season in which he struggled to stay healthy.
But he must play right away.
The key for the Irish staff will be finding areas where he’s comfortable early on, areas where he can get the ball in situations that he could exploit the defense and finding ways to use his speed and explosiveness to generate big plays.
Barring injury I find it hard to come up with a reason to justify Tyree not getting at least seven to 10 touches every game. I don’t really care if he doesn’t know the playbook as much as veterans, which is a common excuse used in the past not to play freshmen, the reality is good coaches at top programs find ways to get players like Tyree on the field right away.
Having his speed on the sidelines would be a waste, which is what we saw with Lenzy during the first year and a half of his career. Once he finally got a chance to play Lenzy made big plays. Lenzy touched the ball just 24 times last season, and seven of those touches went for at least 20 yards. Tyree is even faster and more explosive than Lenzy, and his skillset must be used in 2020.
If the staff does that, Tyree steps up to the challenge and if the freshman stays healthy he could have a major impact on the 2020 football team.
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