We're breaking down the biggest fall-camp position battles in the ACC for each team. Here's a look at Notre Dame's, which six ACC teams will be watching closely this year.
Position battle: Tight end
The candidates: Redshirt sophomore Durham Smythe, freshman Tyler Luatua, redshirt freshman Nic Weishar, freshman Alize Jones and redshirt senior (and converted defensive end) Chase Hounshell are fighting it out to be next-in-line at a place that has produced no shortage of NFL tight ends in recent years.
The impact: Notre Dame has had tight ends taken in four of the past five NFL Drafts. The Irish probably won't have one drafted in the 2016, but that's more a product of their youth than it is of their talent. Smythe and Luatua are the only of the five-man group who possess game experience at the position, with Smythe catching one pass for seven yards in 13 games last season and with Luatua getting his feet wet in 10 games as a true freshman. (He did not record a catch.)
In other words: It's a bit of a free-for-all. Smythe emerged from the spring as the guy expected to be No. 1 tight end, but hamstring issues have limited his time in fall camp -- which, given the logjam at the position, have allowed others to seize the moment. Jones, from prep powerhouse Bishop Gorman (Nevada), arrived this summer as ESPN's No. 1 tight end recruit from 2015, and the 6-foot-4.5, 240-pounder possesses a blend of speed and size that is rarely seen among rookies at that position. Coach Brian Kelly has said that Hounshell, who asked to switch from defensive end to help earn a roster spot as a fifth-year senior, will see some time this fall, but the breakout performer through the month so far has been Weishar. The former ESPN300 prospect redshirted last year and has put on roughly 30 pounds since arriving on campus, with Kelly saying he is up to 245 and no longer looking like a basketball player, given his 6-4 frame. He will, at the very least, be used often in the red zone.
Prediction: The title of "starter" may end up being nothing more than that, given the Irish's surplus of talented but unproven tight ends. Smythe will probably be with the first-team when at full health, but everyone else is likely to see some time. The guess here is that Weishar's nose for the football -- he has been a primary target during limited media practice viewing -- will help him seize the opportunity and become a regular contributor to a Notre Dame offense with plenty of weapons.