Notre Dame commit Brandon Tiassum improving despite obstacles

Bob Wieneke
South Bend Tribune

With a roster that includes fewer than 30 players – total – practices can be a little challenging in terms of plotting offense vs. defense, and vice versa, for Indianapolis Park Tudor football coach Orlando Lowry.

Also figure in that Park Tudor’s roster includes one of Indiana’s top prospects, two-way lineman Brandon Tiassum, so the possibility of Tiassum dominating/destroying/devouring teammates in practice is, well, quite high.

“It’s a situation where there’s no one that can compete with him on the field,'' said Lowry, a former NFL player. "There’s no way that we can simulate what’s going to happen in the game, prepare him for that. So it’s very challenging. He could literally just dominate and hurt people.”

Considering the 6-foot-5, 285-pound Tiassum said the next biggest player on the Park Tudor roster is about 6-4, 250, Lowry hasn’t allowed Tiassum to dismantle teammates in practice. But Lowry is more than happy to unleash his star player on Friday nights.

The Class 2-A school, with an enrollment of 421, struggled through a 1-8 regular season but opened sectional play with a 56-22 victory Friday night, in large part due to Tiassum’s play. He contributed 10 tackles, a pass deflection and a sack. Almost included in that stat line was a touchdown reception, which was called back. Tiassum also has dabbled in returning punts at practice.

Lowry has tried to infuse a little fun into the game for his team, while trying to allow Tiassum to show off his athleticism.

“It’s a combination of both,” Lowry said. “It’s still a game.”

One in which Tiassum has room for growth. Not one of the higher-ranked, glitzy members of ND’s 2015 class, Tiassum is an upside guy, a project who likely won’t pay immediate dividends but who could look like a steal a few years down the road.

Don’t expect Notre Dame’s staff to build a dynasty by recruiting three-star projects, but one or two each year (current freshman defensive end Jhonny Williams comes to mind) can’t hurt. And Tiassum would figure to fit the project description.

“He’s bringing in good size and good athleticism,” said 247Sports director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong, who is based in Indianapolis and has seen Tiassum play a number of times. “Nowhere near a finished product from a strength standpoint. He’s an upside guy.”

And potentially a versatile guy. Tiassum played offense, defense and special teams last year but trimmed away special teams duties this season, outside of the occasional practice punt return.

Rigorous sprints during the offseason and gassers at the end of practices during the season have helped prepare him and his teammates for two-way football. While Tiassum initially projected as a defensive lineman when he committed, he could also land on the offensive line.

“So he’s a guy that brings some versatility to the program as well,” Wiltfong said.

While Tiassum has excelled on defense, he also has added some pretty good numbers on offense. With Friday night’s performance, Lowry estimated that Tiassum is now over 40 pancake blocks for the season.

“He certainly could play offensive line, but he has a defensive mentality,” Lowry said. “This year he’s having a lot more fun offensively.”

Still, the relatively quiet Tiassum has closely watched the Irish defensive linemen this season.

“I watch the D-tackles, so Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones,” Tiassum said. “I could see myself playing Jones’ position.”

Tiassum has bounced around the Park Tudor line this year in order to offset the double- and triple-teaming, and running to the opposite side. Tiassum has played over center, moved to the other side of the line, and also bounced outside in order to make it a little more challenging on opposing offenses.

“I think he’s handled it pretty well,” Lowry said. “What we’ve tried to do is just communicate working within the scheme. It’s not about one individual, whether that’s Brandon or anyone else. I think he’s bought into that and is not complaining about it.”

Lowry estimated that Tiassum has close to 70 tackles this season, with a sack total that is now over 10.

“So to have the numbers is a testament to him because they gameplan him,” Lowry said.

Lowry’s longterm prediction for Tiassum includes an upward trajectory. Lowry, who played at Ohio State and then spent six years in the NFL, five with the Indianapolis Colts, believes Tiassum will flourish once he gets in a college setting with better competition.

Meanwhile, Lowry still has seen Tiassum grow on the field, even if practices aren’t ideal in terms of being able to bully teammates.

“He doesn’t do that, but at the same time, trying to get his mindset, ‘OK, this is not practice, now it’s a game,’ it’s a totally different thing,” Lowry said. “You can go out there and you can dominate. It’s hard to switch that lever. I think he’s done that successfully.”