Full potential still untapped for Notre Dame running back commit Chris Tyree

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Clemson never offered Notre Dame running back commit Chris Tyree — a perplexing decision when considering a few factors.

First, Tyree was a Clemson fan before it was cool. He idolized running back C.J Spiller, who never won more than nine games in his four seasons with the Tigers. Once he met former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd at a local football camp in Virginia, Tyree was sold.

Second, the recruiting industry considers the Chester (Va.) Thomas Dale product a gem in this cycle. Rivals slates Tyree as its No. 1 all-purpose back and No. 40 overall player for the 2020 recruiting class. 247Sports also pegs Tyree No. 1 at the position but has him No. 63 overall.

Tyree became a hot commodity this past year. And he likely has not displayed his full potential at the high school level.

Yet the Tigers passed on Tyree, who had visited their campus. They instead secured pledges from running backs Demarkcus Bowman and Kobe Pryor — the latter of whom stands as a three-star recruit on 247Sports.

The Irish considered taking two running backs this cycle as well. When Tyree committed in May, though, there was no need. Notre Dame believes his speed alone could add another dimension to its offense. Alabama, Oklahoma and others saw similar value when extending offers to Tyree, too.

“It was strange that he didn’t get that offer,” said Richard Tyree, Chris’ father. “But I don’t think he thought, ‘Man, I’m never going to be the same again because Clemson didn’t offer me.’”

Amassing the hype that came with 33 offers and a four-star rating made Clemson’s decision an easy one to forget. Chris Tyree is on a mission to garner even more acclaim this year, though he’s not one to hold grudges or care much about stats.

Last season saw Tyree rush for 1,446 yards and 11 touchdowns on 177 carries. He also caught 23 passes for 302 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers came in just 12 games and despite the fact that Thomas Dale suffered the injury bug. The Knights cycled through seven quarterbacks last season, which included Tyree.

At The Opening Finals last month, Tyree took home the “fastest man” title for the second straight year. His 4.37 40-yard dash topped all the other top athletes competing in Frisco, Texas that week.

However, Tyree still felt he underachieved. He spent the beginning of the summer hobbled by a hamstring injury.

“It would be nice to run a 4.30,” said Tyree, who will join the Irish next June. “I feel like I can do that. That was my first time running since March, so my start was a little rusty.”

Not even wide receiver Will Fuller could crack 4.30 by the time his Notre Dame career concluded. He clocked a 4.32 in 2016. Only two Irish players under Brian Kelly — cornerback Darrin Walls (4.39) and Fuller — recorded a 40-yard dash time lower than 4.40 at their Pro Day or NFL Combine.

Senior cornerback Troy Pride Jr. could become the third. He clocked a 4.32 this offseason. If he doesn’t top Fuller’s time, maybe Tyree eventually could. His speed, like Pride’s, caught the attention of ND’s track and field coaches.

Thomas Dale head coach Kevin Tucker and Tyree even met with an Irish track coach during his March 23 unofficial visit to Notre Dame. The Irish coaching staff is receptive to the idea of Tyree becoming a dual-sport athlete, at least for now.

“You have Olympic type speed,” Tucker recalled the coach telling Tyree. “Not only could you be an NFL superstar, but you could come here and possibly qualify for an Olympic trial.”

At this stage, Tyree considers that prospect as a possibility. He likely won’t know an answer soon.

“I haven’t really set anything in stone yet,” he said.

In the meantime, the next item on Tyree’s agenda is breaking Thomas Dale’s career rushing record. Nick Fleming’s 2003 season positioned him No. 1 with 5,169 rushing yards. Tyree needs almost 2,000 rushing yards, standing at 3,294 for his high school career.

Tucker hopes to increase Tyree’s workload to 20 to 25 touches per game. He believes 2,500 total yards is possible, especially with the offseason Tyree had. Wanting to improve his pass protection abilities, Tyree gained eight pounds to now stand at 5-foot-10, 189.

Thomas Dale defensive ends Bryce Carter and Darius Sterling — both of whom hold multiple Division I offers — can feel the difference.

“He’s jacking them up,” Tucker said. “He’s running over linebackers. Not only does he have some speed, but now he’s got some power to go with it. He used to just run through arm tackles. Now he’s running over people.

“The heaviness that he’s put on has been some extreme muscle mass. He has always been a stocky, fit kid with his legs being so big and a well-defined body. But now he’s got the big pecs and biceps.

“You are starting to see that college body coming through.”

Steve Wiltfong, 247Sports’ director of recruiting, told the Tribune last month that Tyree would need “a lot more” production for the recruiting site to consider ascending him to five-star status. A 2,500-yard season might do the trick.

That kind of senior season, along with early success in college, would likely have Clemson also pondering its previous evaluation. Should the Tigers change their mind, it will be too late.

“It was motivation for me,” Tyree said. “I had to work hard and it definitely paid off. But I’m committed now and have found my second home.”

Chester (Va.) Thomas Dale’s Chris Tyree, a 2020 running back, committed to Notre Dame on May 23, 2019. 
Chester (Va.) Thomas Dale’s Chris Tyree, a 2020 running back, committed to Notre Dame on May 23, 2019.