Wherever they need him

Freshman Drue Tranquill has filled myriad roles through three games this fall.

He lined up over the slot receiver and blitzed.

He lined up as the right outside linebacker and spied, tracked, then tackled the quarterback.

He lined up as an inside linebacker, and as the left outside linebacker, and as a blocker on the punt return unit -- where he helped stop a fake punt -- and as a cover man on both kickoffs and punts.

From each spot, Notre Dame freshman safety, err, linebacker, well, rush end, Drue Tranquill has found a way to be involved in a given play.

Then three games into his college career facing state rival Purdue in Indianapolis, he lined up for multiple series as a strong safety.

Of note regarding the latter, and to the good fortune of Notre Dame's coaching staff and fans, Tranquill lined up against Purdue, not for them.

"At first I was dead locked on Purdue," said Tranquill of his initial college commitment. "They believed in me first, and that's not the type of character kid that I am to break that. I had to step back from that, swallow my pride about saying no to Notre Dame. Take a thorough look and make the best choice for myself."

Tranquill considered saying no to Notre Dame because they hadn't initially said yes to him, a vexing reality for the Fort Wayne, Ind. (Carroll High School) product that through his junior season was woefully under-recruited.

"It was extremely difficult," Tranquill said of his November 2013 de-commitment to Boilermakers head coach Darrell Hazell and the Purdue program. "That's not the type of character kid I am, to want to break a promise. When it comes down to a life decision, I had to do it for my life and my family."

Special from the outset

Most of Notre Dame's incoming freshmen believe they'll find rookie year playing time. Many believe they'll make an impact. For Tranquill, he had a notion he'd have a leg up to see the field in 2014. After all, he possessed a special skill set of great need to head coach Brian Kelly and the football team.

"I knew that coming in, they told me I'd have a chance to play on all four special teams," said Tranquill. "Obviously I'd have to prove myself, so I came into camp with that mindset that it was my role to help the team and things kind of progressed from there. It's fast and furious. You're flying around with your guys and it's intense."

Special teams opened the door to the myriad dime linebacker roles noted above. Attrition to the defensive backfield has since afforded Tranquill more opportunities just three games into his first season.

"In some way you prepare the whole week for it," said Tranquill of strong safety playing time against Purdue that resulted from injuries (Austin Collinsworth/Nicky Baratti), suspension (Eilar Hardy), and ejection (Max Redfield). You can't be out there and be nervous and playing timid, that's not how this game is played. You have to know your stuff and go out there and be confident. I think the guys did a great job rallying around me and helping me be more confident."

"You come to Notre Dame for a reason and it's not to sit on the sidelines and sit on the bench," he continued. "You want to help this university and help this school win football games. When you prepare for something your whole life, when the moment comes, you can't shy down. You have to show up when the lights come on."

Tranquill's confidence was fostered by his preparation at the AWP Sports Training in Fort Wayne. He's not the only Irish player to benefit from the AWP staff and philosophy.

"It was crucial. The biggest thing is the mental development. Learning to be confident in your preparation, learning to be confident in the work you put in," said Tranquill. "That was the biggest thing for me.

"I have a brother in Jaylon Smith, we trained at the same place, AWP. He was a guy I could go to to see what things were going to be like before I came here. He mentioned that (graduate) Prince Shembo was that way for him last year. We have the same mentality in football and in the classroom. He's my big brother."

That mentality, for anyone that's watched either play to date, is obvious.

"We're competitors, we like competing against each other and competing in general. Whether it's in the weight room, on the field, AWP where we trained back home, we're always competing and making each other better. I figure when you have that accountability, something good can happen."

Tranquill's confidence between the lines carries over to the classroom. A true freshman learning disparate positions in a complicated, NFL style defense, Tranquill faces a far greater challenge when he leaves the friendly confines of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex.

Mechanical Engineering.

"It's extremely difficult," he said of his chosen major. "I'm balancing 17 credit hours and football's a 40-hour-per week job. You definitely need help to get through."

Asked what was more of a challenge, the classroom or learning the intricacies of an NFL defense, Tranquill didn't hesitate. "Oh Engineering, come on. Coach (Brian) VanGorder's defense is hard, but come on, man!"

School, linebacker, safety, special teams. Tranquill will be asked to do it all as a true freshman. He appears best-suited at this early stage as the dime 'backer, aligned -- and roving -- all over the field.

"Im a guy that can move around. I've got a little bit bigger body (6'2" 225) so I can come down and play that rush 'backer. I can also drop into coverage, too," said Tranquill. "Those are all attacking positions. (Safety) is a lot different. You have a lot more reading to do. You have to be more careful with your eyes. A lot more tedious. I love getting down there and rushing around, stalking the quarterback, those type of things."

"It's the guys around me, Coach VanGorder, Coach K-Mac (Kyle McCarthy), Austin Collinsworth, Jaylon Smith -- those guys made it a lot easier to prepare and learn my stuff."

He's apparently a quick study.


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