Matt Cashore / Irishillustrated.com

Irish A-to-Z: Cole Kmet

A future red zone and downfield target, Kmet will likely wait his turn in 2017 before competing for a key role in the 2018 campaign.

  • National Ranking: A consensus four-star prospect, Kmet was ranked fourth nationally among tight ends by Scout.com, the 107th ranked prospect overall. Each of the other recruiting services placed Kmet at No. 3, with 24/7 ranking him as the 84th-best player nationally, Rivals at No. 95, and ESPN at No. 122 overall.
  • Irish Illustrated Rank: Fourth overall among the 23 incoming prospects with a high mark of 2nd and low of 9th.
  • Position(s): Tight End
  • Likelihood of Freshman Redshirt: High

2017 PATH TO PLAYING TIME

Blocked.

Not to be confused with “blocking” because that could one day develop into a strong suit of Kmet’s game, but as a true freshman, with three upperclassmen and a top tier early enrollee ahead of him in the pecking order, it seems unlikely Kmet will find the field this fall.

Kmet would have to be outstanding – nearly irreplaceable as a blocker on kickoff returns to forge a varsity role through August Camp.

His future is bright, and he might be a part-time starter as a sophomore/redshirt-freshman next season, but like Durham Smythe, Nic Weishar, Tyler Eifert, John Carlson, and Anthony Fasano before him, Kmet is likely to view his first Irish squad from the sidelines and on the scout team.

LONG-TERM PROJECTION

A starter in two tight end packages favored by new offensive coordinator Chip Long.

Is Kmet a better prospect than fellow freshman Brock Wright? Probably not, but there’s room for two tight ends – de facto starting positions as part of the “12 Package” – and Kmet is in line to compete for one of those spots as a sophomore and nearly certain to cement his place as a junior in 2019.

His ability to adjust to the ball at full speed should prove valuable down the seam and on corner routes in future seasons.

PLAYER COMPARISON

Like Kmet this cycle, Cincinnati product Alex Welch was the nation’s fourth-ranked tight end in 2010; No. 111 overall.

That’s where Kmet hopes the comparisons end.

Welch redshirted as a true freshman during Kelly’s first season in South Bend, played 10 games as a sophomore in 2011, then found himself in stiff competition with freshman Ben Koyack – the No. 1 incoming tight end in 2012 – and position switcher Troy Niklas during August Camp 2012.

Welch appeared to have a leg up for the No. 2 role (behind All-American Tyler Eifert) before tearing his ACL in an open practice late in camp. He missed the 2012 season and was in a third-string role as a senior in 2013 before finishing his career as a graduate student at Miami (Ohio) under former Irish offensive coordinator Chuck Martin.

Welch caught 24 passes with two touchdowns for the Redhawks in 2014.

Conversely, future pros Pete Chryplewicz, Dan O’Leary, Anthony Fasano, John Carlson and Tyler Eifert all redshirted as freshmen for Tight End U.

QUOTABLE

“Other than a quarterback, the tight end is probably the most important and the most challenging position in our offense. You have to have a certain size and toughness because of what we ask you to do – play in and play out. If you have that, you have a chance to be an All-American every single year.” – Offensive coordinator Chip Long on National Signing Day.


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