SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame freshman Drue Tranquill played a larger-than-expected role in Saturday’s 48-17 win over Rice because of absences in the secondary.
The Carroll graduate also filled spots on coordinator Scott Booker’s special teams units.
Irish coach Brian Kelly said he and his staff would continue to prepare Tranquill, who stands 6-foot-3 and 207 pounds, to do more.
He’s a physically strong and conditioned athlete, Kelly said. He’s physically beyond his years condition-wise. He’s such a highly conditioned athlete and physically strong enough that he can compete.
In the season opener, Tranquill was credited with one solo tackle and two assisted tackles, in his college debut. He played on passing downs in nickel and dime packages and also saw snaps at safety with starter Austin Collinsworth hurt.
His is just a learning curve of the game and the speed of the game, Kelly said of Tranquill. He’ll continue to play more and more football. He’s a very good tackler. Solid tackler, and he carries himself not like a freshman.
Eilers joins staff
Former Irish player Pat Eilers, a member of the 1988 national champion squad, was brought on as defensive quality control assistant, Kelly announced Sunday.
With graduate assistant Kyle McCarthy battling cancer, Notre Dame was allowed to add Eilers through an NCAA exemption.
Eilers played 61 games in the NFL in the 1990s with Minnesota, Washington and Chicago. He will take a leave of absence from his job at a private equity firm in Chicago.
He’s got a great knowledge of the game, Kelly said. It’s great to have him around. Pat said, When Kyle can’t go, I’ll fill in.’ It was a great gesture.
Star linebacker Jaylon Smith missed a few snaps in the third quarter Saturday as trainers examined his hand.
Kelly said Smith, a Bishop Luers graduate, suffered a dislocated finger that was reset in about five minutes.
Otherwise, Kelly said Smith made some mental mistakes as he continues to adjust to the team’s switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3.
I would expect that you’re going to see significant improvement from Jaylon from Week 1 to Week 2, Kelly said. He played with great effort. He’s still learning.