Potential renewed for healthy Drue Tranquill at Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Before Drue Tranquill joined his Notre Dame teammates for the annual training camp trip to Culver Academies, the senior captain completed a much longer itinerary in July.

He took a plane to Iceland to surprise his longtime girlfriend, Jackie Gindt, with a marriage proposal. Tranquill, who characterized the offseason as four quarters, already picked up his first victory of 2017.

“That was the one-minute timeout between the third quarter and the fourth quarter,” Tranquill said with a laugh. 

Jacqueline, I'll never forget the moment when I said to myself... "I'm going to Iceland to get my bride!" It was the best decision I'll ever make in my life... • • • • • • WOW. Thank you for capturing our special moment @millaysoccer

A post shared by Drue Tranquill (@druetranquill) on Jul 25, 2017 at 4:49pm PDT

While his fiancée is back at home searching for wedding venues, Tranquill is embarking on his fourth season at Notre Dame. For the first time since 2014, Tranquill’s offseason didn’t include recovery from a season-ending injury.

A romantic trip to Reykjavík sure beats ACL rehab.

“She’s incredible. She’s amazing,” Tranquill said. “She supports me well.”

Tranquill took the field Tuesday at Culver feeling as healthy as ever. The offseason overhaul of the strength and conditioning program under director of football performance Matt Balis has left Tranquill’s knees in good shape.

“If I had no prior knowledge, I couldn’t tell you I tore two ACLs,” Tranquill said, “which is a kudos to our training staff and our strength staff and a relentless mindset and effort to want to get back on the field. I feel great. I’m really excited. I feel strong.”

One practice in, Tranquill could already feel a difference in his legs. The preparation put him in a better place to make it through nearly three hours of practice.

“My legs didn’t feel nearly as fatigued as last year,” Tranquill said following Tuesday’s practice. “We did a lot of legs throughout the summer. That’s where physically I saw the biggest difference. 

“With our mental performance training, mentally I felt a lot stronger. I was able to control my breathing a lot better and focus on my process of getting better.”

No player on Notre Dame’s roster may be more affected by the offseason staff changes at Notre Dame than Tranquill. In addition to the improvements in strength and conditioning, the introduction of defensive coordinator Mike Elko has completely reshaped Tranquill’s potential with the Irish.

No longer is Tranquill stuck primarily running around in the secondary. His 6-foot-2, 231-pound frame is being better utilized at the rover position where he can blend safety and linebacker traits and play closer to the line of scrimmage.

“It obviously brings out my skill set a little more being a bigger safety at 230 pounds,” Tranquill said. “I’m able to get down and use physicality. In previous defenses I was asked more to be more of a finesse player and play off the hash and play in more open space, which doesn’t necessarily bring out my strength and speed combination. This position highlights that a little bit more and you can kind of see that in the play.”

Despite rover being his top priority, Tranquill said he also expects to be trained to play safety and linebacker in certain situations. At one point in Tuesday’s practice both Tranquill and Asmar Bilal, the No. 2 rover, were on the field at the same time.

The position has brought together players from different backgrounds with Tranquill playing safety his whole Irish career and Bilal, a junior, coming with linebacker experience. They can work together to learn from each other. It’s a new position in a new defense for everyone on the roster.

“It’s always a learning process being in the first year of the defense,” Tranquill said. “Obviously, going through spring ball, having the summer to kind of get in the playbook, and now being in fall camp, we call it the fourth quarter of our offseason heading into the season. Definitely having a comfort level with it. Starting to be able to teach the younger guys, especially the rovers, and then personally just trying to grasp the concept of the defense as a whole moving forward.”

A position switch should up Tranquill’s production in a number of ways. Last season, he finished second on the team with 79 tackles. But he only recorded two tackles for a loss and intercepted one pass. Tranquill will be given the opportunity to play behind the line of scrimmage and disrupt the backfield.

Turnovers will also be a priority. In Tuesday’s practice, Tranquill intercepted a quick pass from Montgomery VanGorder near the line of scrimmage that would have likely been returned for a touchdown in a game setting. In 26 career games, Tranquill has intercepted two passes and recovered one fumble.

Asked if the rover role puts him in a better position to create more turnovers, Tranquill didn’t hesitate. 

“Oh yeah. A lot more turnovers,” he said. “Be looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to that. I hope. That’s my goal. That’s one of my goals this year to get around the football more, cause more ball disruptions and make more plays.”

The transitional offseason could lead Tranquill to producing a lot of memorable moments this season. And he won’t have to travel to Iceland to do it.

“I love this team. I love Notre Dame. I love the opportunity they’ve given me,” Tranquill said. “I’m really excited this year. Honored to be a captain. It’s been an incredible summer, incredible offseason, and we look forward to continuing through camp here.”

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

YESSS... I get to spend the rest of my life with the greatest gift the Lord has ever blessed me with. I can not wait to MARRY you Jacqueline Chantal Gindt Photo Creds: Matthew Millay ( @millaysoccer )

A post shared by Drue Tranquill (@druetranquill) on Jul 17, 2017 at 3:32pm PDT

Drue Tranquill during the first practice of fall camp for Notre Dame Football Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, at Culver Academies in Culver, Ind. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN