Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Most Important Players, No. 20: Chris Tyree
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Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Most Important Players, No. 20: Chris Tyree

Throughout July, BlueandGold.com will feature a countdown of the 25 most pivotal figures counted on to help lead Notre Dame back to the College Football Playoff in 2021.

This is not necessarily about who is the best player or the top pro prospect. It’s more along the lines of individuals that need to either emerge, remain a centerpiece or significantly elevate their production to help the Irish reach that goal.

Much is based on talent and impact, but a premium is also placed on these questions: 1) If you subtracted this individual from the roster, how much of a setback would it be? 2) If this less proven player emerges and makes an impact, how much does that raise the ceiling (or lower it, if a breakout does not happen as expected)?

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish football sophomore running back Chris Tyree
Tyree is aiming for more carries in his second season in South Bend. (Notre Dame Athletics)

The players and their rankings were determined by vote from five BlueandGold.com staff members.

Next in the countdown is sophomore running back Chris Tyree, who collected 43 points in our poll.

Why Tyree Is Ranked No. 20

There was a moment during the NBC broadcast of Notre Dame’s 42-26 victory over Florida State last year when play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico commended then-sophomore running back Kyren Williams for a first-down run.

Only he thought it was Williams. It wasn’t.

It was true freshman Chris Tyree.

Tyree and Williams have a lot in common. The latter is 5-9 and 195 pounds. The former is 5-9½ and 188 pounds. Williams wears No. 23. Tyree wears No. 25. Above all and most importantly to Notre Dame, though, is that the two’s running styles are so similar. They carry the ball with controlled aggression, always threatening to take it the distance but never shying away from contact.

Tyree should take Tirico mistaking him for Williams as a compliment. Williams ran for 1,125 yards on 5.3 yards per pop last season, after all. And yet, Tyree’s average was just a bit better — 6.8 yards per carry. He has visions of touchdown dances every time he gets the ball — no matter where he gets it — but he can also move the sticks in short yardage situations.

Tyree is a clear backup to Williams, but he still soundly cracked this top 25 list because his talent is undeniable. Tyree taking the field is much more than giving Williams a breather or presenting the opposing defense with a change of pace. He could be a starter on a bevy of Power Five rosters.

Tyree’s Status Entering The Season

Tyree ran for 103 yards on 11 carries in the aforementioned Florida State game. It was the first time he reached double-digits in carries, and it would eventually be the penultimate time too. Tyree’s season-high was 17 totes against Boston College.

As solid as he was in his first collegiate season, Tyree was not much more than a second fiddle to Williams. He ran the ball six or fewer times in eight of 12 games. With a year under his belt and having already proven to be more than serviceable as a runner, Tyree should see much more than 73 carries and eight receptions this season.

The Notre Dame coaching staff knows what it has in Tyree, but it also knows what it has in Williams. The challenge for offensive coordinator Tommy Rees will be making sure those two get a fair share of touches. For Tyree, that should mean more than his average of 6.75 per game last year.

What Would Be Considered A Successful Individual Season?

It might be too much to ask for Tyree to maintain the same yards per carry average while increasing his work load, but imagine if he did. Tyree’s goal for this season should be to become the same type of home run hitter he was last year with more opportunities to swing for the fences.

Tyree can position himself to receive those extra reps with strong showings in practice, but at the end of the day he doesn’t call his own number on Saturdays. All Tyree can do is be dynamite when he’s put into the game and hope that leads to more playing time.

Tyree should also focus on becoming more involved in the passing game. Williams had at least one catch in every game last season. Tyree had zero receptions in eight games, and four of his eight catches came in Notre Dame’s College Football Playoff loss to Alabama. More of a presence in the passing game could allow Tyree to sub in for Williams for entire series and drives rather than a carry here and a carry there.

It’ll be tough for Rees to please everyone in the running back room. He’s working with three backs who averaged at least five yards per carry last year, the third being senior C’Bo Flemister. All three have earned the right to receive the lion’s share of looks, but only one will. Barring something drastic occurring, that’ll be Williams once again.

Plain and simply, Tyree has to hope for more touches and continue to produce in major fashion when he gets them.

Behind The Ranking

The top 25 was determined in the same manner as the Associated Press top 25. Five BlueandGold.com staff members submitted their ballots, and each position on the ballot was given a point value. The top ranking was worth 25 points, No. 2 was worth 24, No. 3 worth 23 and so on down until No. 25, which was worth one point. The players with the 25 highest point totals made the list.

Individual Rankings

Patrick Engel: 22

Tyler Horka: 23

Mike Singer: 17

Todd Burlage: 10

Steve Downey: 15

Burlage on his ranking: “Tyree made an immediate impact as a freshman last season, and with a new quarterback and four new offensive linemen to break in, expect Tyree to have an even more expanded role this season. Rees said in the spring that he plans on having Tyree and Williams in the lineup at the same time this season, which should provide Tyree many game-breaking opportunities.”

Prior Top 25 Rankings

No. 25: Jonathan Doerer

No. 24: Marist Liufau

No. 23: Drew Pyne

No. 22: Braden Lenzy

No. 21: Jayson Ademilola

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