Notre Dame DE Andrew Trumbetti hopes physical changes yield on-field results

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

If Notre Dame’s change has a face, it might be Andrew Trumbetti.

When he signed with the Irish out of Demarest, N.J., in 2014, Trumbetti — now a 6-foot-4, 265-pound senior defensive end — was ranked as the No. 85 overall player in his class by 247Sports, 97th by ESPN and 166th by Scout.com.

By any measure, hopes were high.

Trumbetti has yet to live up to them.

Through three seasons in South Bend, the former Under Armour All-American and early enrollee has appeared in 36 games, but has just 63 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks to show for it. In Notre Dame’s 4-8 season-long calamity last fall, the Irish defensive line mustered just three sacks as a group — and Trumbetti didn’t contribute.

With one measly season of eligibility remaining, he looked more like a forgotten man than a future NFL draft pick.

Then, Trumbetti’s surroundings changed — and, to this point, so has he.

“He looks like the guy that we recruited out of high school,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said last week. “He was a dominating player out of high school, had an edge about him. We did a poor job of developing him until this year. He is at that point where he’s going to make an impact, and it’s going to be fun to watch.”

If Trumbetti looks better, that might be because he’s bigger. In the past, the true senior has struggled to gain and maintain weight. But since, he’s adopted a seemingly obvious strategy.

“I just eat when I’m hungry. I eat whenever I want,” Trumbetti said with a grin. “It’s all healthy food, but I eat as much chicken as I can. I eat as much rice as I can whenever I’m hungry.”

And the result?

“I feel like the weight I’ve put on is all good weight,” said Trumbetti, who admitted he has played as light as 235 pounds. “So even when I’m coming off the edge, even when I’m running, I don’t feel like I’m heavy. When I’m playing I notice that I’m not getting pushed back or pushed around as much. I feel like I can hold the point of attack, and it’s really worked for me.”

Even after the weight gain, Trumbetti insists he hasn’t sacrificed speed for strength. He’s more sturdy, but just as explosive.

And, more so than in the past, his coaches understand how to coax the best out of his newly transformed frame.

“I’m just really hard on myself,” Trumbetti said. “Honestly, you don’t really need to yell at me when I make a mistake. I’ll fix it myself. If I get someone yelling at me, I’ll just overthink it and it makes it worse.

“(Defensive line coach Mike) Elston knows that. (Defensive coordinator Mike) Elko knows that. I fix my mistakes, and that’s it.”

While Elston and Elko are certainly playing their part, Trumbetti credited an unlikely source with helping to revamp the Irish defensive line:

His fall camp opponents.

“I think we’re going to have the best offensive line in the country. That’s not even a question, in my opinion,” Trumbetti said. “So just going against them day in and day out and with how hard they work every single day, it’s crazy.

“Our defensive line has made the biggest strides that they have since I’ve been here … by a long shot.”

For Notre Dame to flip its fortunes, that must translate onto the field. In 2016, the Irish defense — apart from its relative inability to rush the passer — also struggled to contain the run, finishing 72nd nationally in rushing defense (182.4 yards per game).

Addressing those issues, for Kelly and Elko, didn’t mean flying in any five-star freshman replacements.

Instead, they’ll further develop the players they have (and that doesn’t just mean eating chicken).

“(The defensive line is) definitely not going to be a question mark this season,” Trumbetti said. “Everybody has bought into this offseason, what we’ve done. We had a lot of immaturity in the past.

“Guys are really stepping up. We don’t have that many immature guys. We really don’t have any, honestly. Here and there, but it’s not like it was in years past.”

Notre Dame fans certainly hope that’s the case — when it comes to the rush defense, the pass rush, and most recently, the end result.

But any physical improvement must be preceded first by a devotion to the cause.

“This year, you have to buy in,” Trumbetti said. “If you’re not bought into the program, you either quit or you just don’t belong here. People know the people who don’t want to be here. The people that haven’t bought in, they’re not getting reps. The people that are bought in, you know who they are.”

As a heavy contributor alongside fellow senior Jay Hayes at the strong side defensive end position, Trumbetti has received plenty of reps thus far in fall camp.

His physical change is apparent, and his buy-in is beyond reproach.

“Honestly, it’s my senior year,” Trumbetti said. “I have nothing to lose at this point, and I’ve got everything to prove. So I’m just going out there and playing.”

mvorel@ndinsider.com

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Andrew Trumbetti 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