Practice notes: Is Notre Dame moving Chris Tyree to WR? 'To be determined,' Marcus Freeman says

Mike Berardino
ND Insider
Notre Dame running back Chris Tyree (2) during Notre Dame Spring Practice on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at Irish Athletics Center in South Bend, Indiana.

SOUTH BEND — Senior speedster Chris Tyree is still listed at running back but he spent the bulk of Wednesday’s spring practice opener working with the receiver group.

“Permanent move? It’s to be determined,” Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman said. “We know Chris Tyree is a guy we (must) have on the football field. We know what he can do as a running back. He’s shown the skillset to be a wide receiver at this level. You’re seeing more of that in college football and in the NFL: guys that can play multiple different skill positions on offense.”

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Tyree, who spent his first three seasons wearing the famed No. 25 of College Football Hall of Famer Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, has switched to No. 2 this spring. A former Virginia state champion track star, Tyree (listed at 5-foot-9 and 197 pounds) also returns kickoffs for Notre Dame and has the program’s only touchdown return over the past six seasons.  

Of Tyree’s 309 snaps on offense last season, according to Pro Football Focus, 50 were as a slot receiver (16.2%) with another 23 (7.4%) at wide receiver. While Audric Estime and Logan Diggs emerged as the top two backfield weapons last season, Tyree still managed a combined 124 touches on offense (24 receptions) for 582 yards and five touchdowns.

Through three seasons, Tyree has dropped just four passes (6.7%) while hauling in 56 receptions out of 65 total targets (86.2%).

“Do you treat him as a running back? Do you treat him as a wideout?” Freeman said. “That’s what we’ve got to be able to do and (build) confidence of the quarterbacks in him as a wide receiver. We think we can use him in multiple different positions.”

Why Brandyn Hillman ended up at Michigan

Four-star safety Brandyn Hillman (Portsmouth, Va.) had no shortage of Power-5 options (including Ohio State, USC, Wisconsin, LSU, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Boston College) after Notre Dame granted his request to be released from his national letter of intent.

Asked about Hillman, who reopened his recruitment on March 12 and committed to Michigan on Sunday, Freeman took the high road.

“I’ll let Brandyn tell his story and I’m sure at some point he will,” Freeman said Wednesday. “No, I don’t see that being a new norm (in recruiting). It’s unfortunate for us that he didn’t come here, but it was really a personal decision that he made.”

In a story published shortly after Freeman’s public comments, Hillman told The Athletic his plan to attend Notre Dame fell through due to the university’s stringent entrance policies.

“Admissions denied me for Notre Dame,” Hillman told the website. “As you can see, I could have committed to any other school. Notre Dame had requirements I had to meet, and I didn’t meet (them).”

Losing Hillman, one of Michigan’s top five signees in the Class of 2023, could send Notre Dame back to the transfer portal for another safety. Former Oklahoma State starting safety Thomas Harper, who had season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in November, was added as a grad transfer in January.

“We have to look at our safeties room and say, ‘OK, after spring, do we need a transfer for the depth of the room?’ “ Freeman said. “That’s what 15 practices (will) tell us. That’s the beauty of this thing."

Amir Carlisle returns

Former Notre Dame player Amir Carlisle (2013-15) is the new director of player development. The former USC transfer running back/wide receiver replaces former offensive lineman Hunter Bivin, who was promoted in January to assistant athletic director for alumni engagement.

Carlisle, 30, also had brief professional stints as a player in the NFL (Arizona Cardinals), CFL and AAF.

Notre Dame’s Amir Carlisle (3) walks Saturday, April 11, 2015, at Notre Dame spring football practice at LaBar Practice Complex in South Bend. SBT Photo/GREG SWIERCZ

Mike Mickens, entering his fourth season as cornerbacks coach, has added the title of pass-defense coordinator. Running backs coach Deland McCullough, who has reportedly drawn NFL interest the past two offseasons, is now offensive run-game coordinator as well.

Notre Dame has interviewed multiple candidates for director of player personnel after Dave Peloquin was promoted last month to assistant athletic director/football strategic initiatives. Freeman said a decision could be announced by week’s end.

While Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick spoke in late February of an ongoing search for “sort of a general manager for roster purposes,” Freeman downplayed that Wednesday.

“Jack hasn’t told me about a general manager position,” Freeman said.

Swarbrick, in a Feb. 23 university-sponsored podcast appearance, suggested the new pseudo-GM could “help bring a lot of different pieces together that aren’t necessarily connected as well as they should be right now.” Swarbrick also said the proposed role would be “an important conduit” for NIL discussions.

Medical issue sidelines Ron Powlus III

Redshirt junior quarterback Ron Powlus III, the former Penn High School standout and namesake of the current director of football operations, has been medically disqualified from continuing his Notre Dame football career, the school announced.

Notre Dame quarterbacks Tyler Buchner (12), Sam Hartman (10), Steve Angeli (18) during Notre Dame Spring Practice on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at Irish Athletics Center in South Bend, Indiana.

Also taken off the roster due to medical retirements announced Wednesday: linebacker Will Schweitzer (congenital heart issue and safety Justin Walters.

Three others left the team, Freeman said: cornerback Philip Riley, offensive tackle Caleb Johnson and kicker Josh Bryan.

With those adjustments, Notre Dame reportedly has whittled its number of projected 2023 scholarship players to 87. That includes the incoming freshmen who aren’t due to enroll until June.

FBS programs don’t have to meet the 85-scholarship limit until the start of fall classes.

Kevin Bauman, Eli Raridon still rehabbing

Tight ends Kevin Bauman and Eli Raridon, both coming off ACL surgeries last fall, rode stationary bikes while observing Day 1 of spring practice from a distance.

Joining them in the rehab group were redshirt freshman running back Jadarian Price, nine months removed from surgery to repair a torn left Achilles; and a pair of midyear enrollees coming off shoulder surgery (safety Adon Shuler and defensive lineman Devan Houstan).

Price, one of the breakout stars of last year’s Blue-Gold Game, has been doing some running and continues to progress toward a return, Freeman said.

Fifth-year senior cornerback Cam Hart and Oklahoma State grad transfer Thomas Harper, a nickel safety, were cleared to participate in non-contact drills following shoulder repairs late last season. It seems unlikely at this point, Freeman said, that either defensive back would join live contact work this spring.


Safety Xavier Watts and wideout Deion Colzie both switched to the No. 0 formerly worn by Braden Lenzy.

Other new numbers of note: grad transfer defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste, who wore No. 8 at Ohio State, is wearing No. 1; quarterbacks Sam Hartman (10) and Kenny Minchey (8); linebacker Jaylen Sneed (from No. 17 to No. 3); wide receiver Tobias Merriweather (from 15 to 5); cornerback Jaden Mickey (from 21 to 7); freshman wideouts Braylon James (14), Rico Flores Jr. (17) and Jaden Greathouse (19); freshman linebackers Jaiden Ausberry (23) and Preston Zinter (25); freshman cornerback Christian Gray (29); freshman offensive lineman Sam Pendleton (72); Virginia Tech grad transfer receiver Kaleb Smith (80) and Houstan (98).

Notre Dame quarterback Kenny Minchey (8) throws the ball during Notre Dame Spring Practice on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at Irish Athletics Center in South Bend, Indiana.

Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino @MikeBerardino.