The Battle Within

Trumbetti finished the 2015 season strong, returning an interception for a 28-yard score vs. Wake Forest and putting together his best game in a ND uniform vs. Ohio State.

Just let it go. Forget about it. It’s over. Move on to the next play.

It’s a coaching mantra in all sports, on all levels.

It’s an internal battle that Notre Dame junior defensive end Andrew Trumbetti has fought virtually every time he’s stepped on the football field for the Irish.

“The biggest thing for me is don’t focus on the last play,” said the 6-foot-3½, 252-pounder out of Demarest, N.J. “Just move on.

“I’ll think about the last play and that will ruin my whole practice. If I have one bad play, I’ll be pissed off about it the entire practice. I just need to stop doing that.”

Perhaps Trumbetti can focus on his most recent performance – against Ohio State in the Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl – in which he took a career-high 81 snaps while starting at the position normally manned by Isaac Rochell, who bumped inside against the Buckeyes when tackle Jerry Tillery was suspended for the game.

Trumbetti tied a career-high with four tackles, including a pair of stops behind the line of scrimmage, one of which was a sack of quarterback J.T. Barrett.

Yet by the end of spring drills, red-shirt sophomore Jay Hayes – who preserved a year of eligibility in 2015 – moved past Trumbetti on the depth chart as the Irish transitioned into summer conditioning.

“I’m still waiting,” said Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder of Trumbetti’s arrival as a consistent force. “His process has been slower than he would want it to be or I would want it to be, and I’m just waiting for a big jump from him.

“I’m seeing flashes of it, but the every-day consistency is not quite there.”

Heading into Texas, Trumbetti is part of a three-man tag team at right defensive end, or rush end in Notre Dame terminology. Joining Trumbetti and Hayes – who is Notre Dame’s first- and second-down (run downs) designate – is another Hayes, freshman Daelin, who figures to be on the field in pass rush situations with Trumbetti.

“Jay is very powerful,” Trumbetti said. “He’s big and athletic and fast for his size. Daelin is an amazing athlete, but he’s young, so right now, I know the playbook a little better. That’s what I bring to the table.”

But little has come easily for Trumbetti since his freshman debut when he played in 12 of 13 games (missing the Purdue game due to a concussion), totaling 21 tackles, 5½ tackles for loss and a sack.

Moving from rush to big end (behind Rochell) as a sophomore, Trumbetti’s opportunities were limited. He made five less tackles and three fewer tackles for loss in his second year than he did his first.

It wasn’t all bad for Trumbetti in 2015. In addition to his breakthrough performance against the Buckeyes, he found himself in the right place at the right time against Wake Forest in the 10th game of the season when he snagged an interception – more of a fumble forward by the quarterback caught in mid-air – and returned it 28 yards for a score.

Finding the optimum size, particularly now that he’s back at rush end, has been one of Trumbetti’s obstacles.

“I’m 250 pounds, so sometimes I have double teams with tight ends and tackles,” Trumbetti said. “It’s tougher for me. Jay does a great job. He works really hard. He’s physical. I’m not saying I can’t do that, but it’s tougher for me.

“My optimum weight is 252, which is what I was this morning. My athleticism is what really helps me. I can play a lot of positions, and I feel like when I’m too heavy, it takes away some of my traits. I don’t have many traits, but I have a few.”

A very real trait of Trumbetti’s is his propensity to beat himself up when the flow of the game is not going his way. Trumbetti has worked on it. The coaches have assisted in the process. The University has provided supplementary support to help him overcome the mental hurdle.

Using the Ohio State game as a touchstone has been a priority.

“I’ve just been trying to improve mentally and working my mental toughness,” Trumbetti said. “Coach Kelly has been helpful with it. I just get on myself about everything. I’m trying to be confident in what I do, learn the playbook and go out there and play full speed.”

How high is Trumbetti’s upside? With two years of eligibility remaining, VanGorder knows there’s a consistent, quality football player somewhere within.

“It’s been a challenge for Andrew, but I have a vision for him as a player,” VanGorder said. “He could be really good. He could be a production guy and he’s got some hurdles to keep jumping. He’s just got to keep working at it. We need his production.”

With the slate wiped clean heading into Texas this weekend, Trumbetti says he’s focused on the positives.

“Entering my third year and being confident with the playbook – everyone makes little mistakes here and there – but when I make a mistake, I immediately realize what I did,” Trumbetti said.

“I’m very confident. I know I can make a huge impact. I know I can play a lot of football. I’m definitely excited about playing Texas. ”


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