Matt Cashore /

Irish A-to-Z: Durham Smythe

Nearly 40 percent of Smythe’s 13 career receptions have concluded in the end zone.

One of two tight end recruits in the 2013 class, Smythe placed sixth per at the position, the 170th rated player overall. 24/7 ranked Smythe as its 175th best prospect while Rivals comparatively dubbed Smythe a 3-star prospect, No. 15 overall at the position.

Smythe was one of 17 members of Brian Kelly’s fifth-ranked 2013 recruiting class to finish among the SCOUT 300. He, along with offensive tackles Mike McGlinchey (No. 90 overall) and Hunter Bivin (No. 174) have returned to South Bend for post-graduate work and a final season of eligibility with the squad.

  • Class: Graduate
  • On the depth chart: Starting tight end
  • Post-spring status: Unchanged


He scored two touchdowns against Army and another vs. both Michigan State and Duke last fall, but in terms of value to a football team – and to a meaningful football season – Smythe’s best collegiate moment in pads was a prime example of toughness – mental and physical – necessary to be a winning football player.

With less than 30 seconds remaining and Notre Dame – down to its final timeout – stymied at the Virginia 39-yard line, Smythe suffered his second serious injury of the 2015 football season, tearing ligaments in his knee.

Instead of staying on the field and thus forcing a final clock stoppage that would have greatly hampered the Irish efforts, Smythe limped off, making it to the sidelines seconds prior to DeShone Kizer’s 39-yard, game-winning touchdown bomb to Will Fuller with 12 seconds remaining.

Smythe, who scored the first touchdown of his career at the outset of the contest, had surgery to repair the knee and his already damaged shoulder thereafter and was personally thanked in the hospital by head coach Brian Kelly for his poise and toughness under pressure.


“Oh sure, I mean, that’s not why you’re going to make your decision (to return). But with him coming in and explaining his offense and what he likes to do, I was immediately all in at that point.” – Durham Smythe on new OC Chip Long


Top notch blocking, timely third-down and red zone receptions and the occasional shot down the seam to keep defenses honest.

Smythe’s not the team’s top receiving target among the tight end quintet – that’s junior Alizé Mack – but he can log the most minutes at the position if he shows a penchant for the physical.

“That was my goal, to get to 255 this off-season,” Smythe said in the spring of his 256-pound listing compared to 245 last fall. “I feel great. Besides the after-effects of two surgeries it shows what this strength and conditioning staff has done. It’s been really impressive across the board, not just with me.”


You mean other than last year?

Smythe was targeted a mere 1.5 times per contest last fall including a mid-season game against Stanford in which no passes came his way. As a result, he gained just 112 yards on nine receptions with two of his touchdowns scored in a blowout of Army and two others in defeat.

It’s unlikely Chip Long’s purported penchant for tight end usage will lead to such shoddy statistics for the team’s starting tight end this fall, but it’s likewise true that the aforementioned Mack and wide receivers Equanimeous St. Brown (certainly), Miles Boykin and Kevin Stepherson (probably), and Chase Claypool (it is to be hoped), plus a bevy of ‘backs are ahead in the pass-catching pecking order.

Despite 14 starts, Smythe has just once caught two passes in a college contest. It’s up to the fifth-year senior to earn his keep in the passing game and never relinquish his invaluable role blocking for the Irish rushing attack.


His predecessor, Ben Koyack, though the Oil City, Pa.-product did not redshirt as a true freshman as did Smythe.

Entering his final season, Koyack had notched just 13 receptions for 219 yards and three touchdowns. He finished 2014 with 30 grabs for 213 yards and two scores while logging more playing time than anyone on the roster.

Smythe begins his final season in South Bend with 13 receptions for 137 yards and five scores.

Koyack helped win a football game late with his hands (Stanford 2014) while Smythe did the same with his toughness (Virginia 2015). The latter wouldn’t mind more opportunities at the former’s version of late-game heroics this fall. Top Stories