Notre Dame got some good news Tuesday, as tight end Cole Kmet and left tackle Liam Eichenberg each announced their intentions to return for their final seasons of eligibility in 2020.
The key to these pronouncements, especially with Kmet, is to know that they are not binding. Either could change their minds after getting NFL Draft feedback in the offseason. Kmet is a physical freak (he also pitches for the baseball team) with soft hands at tight end who might be one of the best prospects at the position this year. He's already caught 29 passes for 327 yards and five touchdowns this season, despite missing the first two games of the year with a broken collarbone. He is one of Ian Book's most important targets and a terrific blocker for good measure. Still, he says he plans on returning.
"I plan on coming back and playing baseball in the spring, and then being here for my senior season," Kmet said.
Most analysts had assumed that Kmet would depart after this season and the possibility of a return changes Notre Dame's offensive outlook for 2020 fairly significantly, especially since the Irish will already be losing top wide receiver Chase Claypool. Getting Kmet back would go a long way toward plugging that gap.
Eichenberg is a different case because he isn't a highly-rated NFL draft prospect so it was expected that he would be back next year. Still, getting the 6-foot-6, 305-pound left tackle back would be a boon for the Irish offensive line. He would be a third-year starter next season and as a fifth-year senior would be in prime position to be named a captain. If Robert Hainsey and Tommy Kraemer return, as well, the Irish would have all five starters back on the offensive line. That continuity is huge at a position that depends on chemistry.