An early enrollee for the class of 2014, Andrew Trumbetti parlayed his extra nine months with the Notre Dame program into an instant impact freshman campaign.
“He's really separated himself, sometimes I don't talk about him enough because sometimes I forget he's a freshman,” said head coach Brian Kelly prior to the midpoint of 2014 August Camp.
“He's almost separated himself from the freshmen class. He's a starter right now for us -- he's the starting defensive end for us. He'll start as a true freshman for us. He's just that kind of player. We think that he's got a huge upside for us in so many areas, that sometimes I don't talk about him enough. Great motor, physical, smart, does all the things we ask him to do.”
Trumbetti displayed those traits often as a rookie, showing well vs. Michigan and Syracuse in September, North Carolina and Florida State in October, and even during the squad’s ugly November stretch with strong outings against Arizona State, Northwestern, and Louisville.
With a deep rotation expected up front and no consistent pass rusher yet to emerge among the group, much is expected from the sophomore defensive end from Demarest, N.J. heading into his second season.
Trumbetti earns the starting nod over the likewise improved Romeo Okwara but the pair share reps opposite “Big End” Isaac Rochell, securing the edge of Notre Dame’s four-man defensive front while providing a pass-rush punch off the edge.
Last season, the Okwara/Trumbetti tandem posted a combined 31.5 tackles-for-loss and “Stuffs” (tackles after gains of 0, 1, or 2 yards) to go along with five sacks and five QB Hurries. As a senior/sophomore pairing this fall, a realistic scenario would result in the duo more than doubling those sack and hurry totals while adding at least 10 additional “Stuffs” to their combined end-season resume.
Trumbetti will contribute to both the base defense and sub packages for defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. At his best, he’ll be one of the two most effective/important sophomores on the Irish roster in 2015 and among the team’s best pass rushers.
Trumbetti experiences a bit of a sophomore slump and is clearly beaten out by Okwara, a 20-year-old senior who while solid, has yet to make a consistent impact over his first two seasons as a contributor. As a result, the duo never distinguishes itself over Notre Dame’s 12-game slate and opponents target the smaller side of the Irish defensive front in the running game.
Trumbetti missed the middle chunk of spring ball 2015 (a reported “virus”) and as a result his progress stagnated a bit – a productive August Camp is thus a necessity. Moreover, the aggressive Trumbetti suffered a concussion last September and in the modern game, he can ill-afford a second in Season Two of his collegiate career.
By the numbers, Trumbetti compares favorably to teammate and fellow early enrollee, Sheldon Day. A 2012 freshman and the No. 1 defensive lineman off the bench for a championship-level Irish defense, Day posted 23 tackles including 3.5 for loss and two sacks while adding a pass defended and a quarterback hurry.
Trumbetti’s rookie stat line shows 21 tackles including 5.5 for loss with a sack and five QB hurries. Both players carved out roles as the most important backup along a heavy defensive line rotation – Day did so for an all-time great Irish defense.
In terms of comparative styles, Trumbetti (a shade under six-foot-four and 255 pounds) is reminiscent of former Irish rush end Scott Kowalkowski. Both relatively undersized for their eras, the six-foot-two, 230-pound Kowalkowksi made a living coming off the edge in Notre Dame’s 3-4 fronts of 1989 and 1990, but like Trumbetti, also had the speed to chase plays to the perimeter as both a base and nickel DE/OLB.
A four-star prospect and the No. 20 rated defensive end per Scout.com, Trumbetti placed at No. 166 in the annual Scout.com Top 300. As a 12-game contributor last season (he missed the win over Purdue due to a concussion suffered against Michigan one week prior), Trumbetti finished fifth on the squad in quarterback hurries and sixth in tackles for loss, playing extensively in both the base defense and third-down dime packages.
He concluded 2014 with a Music City Bowl starting assignment in a 31-28 victory over LSU, a game in which he registered three tackles including one for loss plus a quarterback hurry.
Trumbetti was projected to make an early impact and did. His next step is one crucial to the team’s success this fall: can Trumbetti develop into one of the better true sophomore defensive linemen in the nation?
The freshman posted four tackles to go with a quarterback hurry against Michigan, Arizona State, and Louisville last season, but his best likely occurred against the Wolverines.
Among his four stops was a 3rd-and-1 stuff for no gain, plus a quarterback hurry in which Michigan triggerman Devin Gardner completed the pass, only to have Trumbetti wheel and sprint after the ball carrier to secure the tackle after a six-yard gain, prior to first-down yardage. (A Hurry, plus a downfield tackle on the same snap.)
It was Trumbetti’s second career contest and one in which he played a major role up front.
“"I think it would have been very difficult if I came in the summer like everyone else did. It was the best decision for me: coming in, learning the package, and getting acclimated to classes so I wasn't thrown right into it. Meeting a lot of friends, getting comfortable with the guys on the team. All of it helped." – Trumbetti on his early enrollment in January 2014.