Notre Dame in position to absorb Tyler Luatua's potential transfer

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

That there were zero career catches attached to Tyler Luatua’s nearly empty stat line in two seasons at Notre Dame doesn’t speak to the talent that is apparently walking out the door.

But it does strongly hint at the significant evolution that must take place in order for the blocking-proficient sophomore to become an all-around tight end.

If it does indeed happen for the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Paramount, Calif., product, it will likely unfold at Brigham Young University, the school where Luatua is reportedly headed. Terrell Williams of CougarAccess.com was first to report about the transfer, which still is not yet final.

Williams tweeted Monday that Luatua is choosing BYU as his landing spot to be closer to “friends, family and home.” Luatua is expected to visit BYU this weekend. The Cougars did offer him a scholarship coming out of high school.

Notre Dame officials have not confirmed the report.

There certainly appears to be plenty of momentum , however, which could leave Notre Dame perhaps a bit short on numbers at the position, but definitely not short on potential.

The inexperience/injury cocktail severely curtailed the production in 2015 at the position. The 20 combined receptions are the fewest in a season by an ND tight end corps since John Owens and Gary Godsey combined for eight catches in 2001, Bob Davie’s final season as head coach.

The only touchdown from the five-man tight end group this season came on a fake field goal.

Luatua's lone career stat was a six-yard return on a squib kickoff. He played in 20 of a possible 26 games for the Irish, missing time in each season with concussion issues. He made four starts, including both of ND’s bowl games the past two seasons.

As for what he leaves behind, junior Durham Smythe (4 career catches for 25 yards, 1 TD), with two years of eligibility remaining, leads a burgeoning Irish tight end corps.

The most complete tight end on the roster at this point missed 10 games with what was believed to be a season-ending MCL tear in his right knee and a shoulder injury, but Smythe did come back and play in ND’s 44-28 loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1.

Freshman Alizé Jones, ND’s active career leader in receptions (13 for 190 yards), and redshirt freshman Nic Weishar (3 for 19 yards) were catch-first, block-second tight ends, whose playing time figures to increase as they improve their blocking.

Each has three season of eligibility remaining, and each showed promise to eventually put up the kind of receiving numbers that has deemed Notre Dame “Tight End U” over the past decade.

Bringing back potential sixth-year grad senior Chase Hounshell (1 reception, 6 yards) is a possibility, given the converted defensive lineman’s strong blocking skills in just his first year at the position.

If both ND and Hounshell pushed for his return, that would seem to provide a safety net at the position in terms of overall numbers, since ND does not have a tight end in the recruiting cycle that closes with National Signing Day on Feb. 3.

The Irish do, however, have two commitments in the 2017 recruiting class, including the player regarded as the top prospect at that position in that cycle, Brock Wright of Cypress, Texas. He’s joined by Cole Kmet of Arlington Heights, Ill.

ehansen@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @EHansenNDI

Notre Dame tight ends coach Scott Booker with tight end Tyler Luatua during Notre Dame Football practice. Luatua is reportedly transferring to BYU. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)

The year-by-year combined receptions and TD catches from the Notre Dame tight end corps since 2001:

Year       Recs.     TDs

2015       20           1

2014       31           2

2013       42           8

2012       58           5

2011       66           5

2010       58           5

2009       41           3

2008       31           2

2007       47           3

2006       56           6

2005       54           3

2004       58           5

2003       34           2

2002       24           0

2001       8              1