SOUTH BEND, Ind. — There’s still a long way to go, but Tommy Tremble might be one of those players that the Georgia Bulldogs might regret letting get away.
That’s yet to be determined. But as Notre Dame prepares for its annual Blue & Gold spring game on Saturday (2 p.m., NBCSN), the Fighting Irish are awfully glad he’s on their team. The 6-foot-3, 237-pound tight end from Johns Creek in Atlanta has been turning heads this spring and has played himself into a role for this fall.
“He’s really come on the last two weeks,” Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long said Thursday. “I mean, if there’s a guy in our offense who has just progressed where you know they can really help us next year, it’d probably be him.”
Tremble has been repping with the Irish’s No. 1 offense this week and also has been getting work on several of their special teams units. That means Tremble likely will be on the field for Notre Dame on Sept. 21 when it makes the school’s first-ever visit to Sanford Stadium.
That’s not a small deal in the Tremble household. His parents both graduated from UGA, including his father, Greg, who was a two-year starter and All-SEC defensive back for the Bulldogs in the early 1990s.
Quite naturally, Greg Tremble would have loved for his son to follow in his footsteps and play college ball between the hedges. If nothing else, it’d mean he could make the hour drive to watch his son play in the spring game, or any practice he pleased, for that matter.
Instead, the Trembles will be packing up the family truckster Friday to make the 10-hour drive here for Notre Dame’s spring scrimmage. And their bags will be heavy with newly-acquired Notre Dame coats and sweatshirts as tailgaters will be greeted with morning temps in the mid-30s.
None of this, of course, has tempered the family’s spirits.
“We’re excited about coming up there to see him,” Greg Tremble said. “It sounds like he’s going to have an opportunity to get on the field, so that’s good news. Hopefully he’ll be able to play.”
Oh, he’ll play. The Trembles can count on that.
Cole Kmet, Notre Dame’s returning starter at tight end, was sidelined with an ankle injury earlier this spring. That has thrusts Tremble into a front-line role in which he is splitting reps with junior Brock Wright with the No. 1 offense.
By all accounts, Tremble has taken full advantage of that opportunity.
“The good thing about it was it forced me to put Tommy in there with the 1s the whole practice and he did a really nice job,” Long said. “He has not disrupted (the offense), he’s executing, not necessarily at a high level, but showing that he belongs.”
According to teammates and coaches, he has given them another dimension at tight end. He’s quicker and, even though he’s smaller than his position mates, who average 6-5, 250, he’s is playing with “great physicality.”
A sample of the ramblings:
- Senior guard Tommy Kraemer said: “Tommy’s really killing it this spring.”
- Special teams and recruiting coordinator Brian Polian: “Tommy Tremble is having a great spring. We’re thrilled about what he’s doing.”
- Senior wide receiver Chris Finke: “A good young player. He’s physically imposing, a big dude who runs fast and has pretty good hands. He’s working his way into a role.”
- Said Long: “He’s been really exciting and there are some things we’ll be able to do with him in the fall if he keeps progressing.”
That’s a long way from where Tremble was a year ago. After transferring to the Wesleyan School from Johns Creek as a senior, he played in only two games before a broken ankle sidelined him for the season. Then, after choosing the Irish over Michigan and UCLA in recruiting, Tremble found himself having to sit behind five other tight ends in South Bend.
“He has great athleticism, great speed, a very physical player,” Long said. “He just has to learn football. But he picks it up really well and does a lot of things naturally. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, but he does it naturally, which is a good starting point.”
All the spring-camp buzz has made Tremble a popular subject for the local beat-writing pool. But Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly hasn’t made him available for interviews yet. So far he’s been sticking to the “no freshman interviews” policy. But there’s talk that could change after the Blue-Gold game.
Whatever Tommy Tremble says then will be more than his father has heard to this point. Greg Tremble, who had a short NFL stint after his Georgia career, said he deliberately doesn’t talk much football with his son.
“He doesn’t really like to talk about it that much and I don’t like to talk about it either,” the elder Tremble said. “I feel like it may make him nervous and I don’t want him comparing himself to me.”
Tommy has opened up a little recently, however.
“The only time he really mentioned something was after Monday’s practice, I think it was,” his father said. “He said, ‘I think I had a pretty good practice, Dad.’ He felt like he played pretty good last Saturday, too. But he doesn’t really comment about it much. And I’m just, like, ‘keep working hard, son’ and stuff like that.”
The Trembles truly are a fascinating family, and very athletic as one might suspect. Tommy’s older sister, Isabella, 20, runs the 400-meter and 800-meter hurdles at Marshall. And 13-year-old James is already a standout in both football and lacrosse in Johns Creek.
Nobody knows yet about 3-year-old Blair, but she has exhibited many of the same traits that led the family to call Tommy “Thomas the Train” because he’d run through his baby gate as a toddler.
“She’s a hand full,” Greg beamed.
When the whole clan lived at home, it made for a harried and frantic existence. In fact, taking care of the kids has been Greg’s full-time job since his wife Abigail’s business career took off many years ago. She is currently the president of Randstad Healthcare in Atlanta, which has left Greg with most of the day-to-day, child-rearing duties.
Understandably, he and Tommy are very close. But when becoming a college football prospect like his father went from being a dream to reality for Tommy, Greg vowed to stand at his son’s side as adviser rather than as dictator out front. And while they were both thrilled when Georgia coach Kirby Smart came forth with a scholarship offer Tommy’s junior year, as time passed it became increasingly evident that would not be his ultimate destination.
“Towards the end it was really just Michigan, UCLA and Notre Dame,” Greg Tremble said. “The last month or so, it seemed like Georgia backed off a little bit. They were still calling, but it just wasn’t the same enthusiasm. And then a couple of weeks later the tight ends coach (Shane Beamer) ended up leaving, too. So, I don’t know. The last three weeks of recruiting before the early signing, they just weren’t really calling us and staying in contact with us.”
It could’ve been because the Bulldogs had their eyes on a couple of higher-rated tight end prospects. They’d sign Luke Ford, the No. 1 recruit in the state of Illinois, and John FitzPatrick of Marist. Both were 4-stars and ranked higher in 247Sports.com’s recruiting composite than Tommy Tremble.
“That may have been what it was; I don’t know,” Greg said. “But I do know that he’s very happy at Notre Dame now, and I’m happy he’s up there, too.”
And now the Trembles know they will have at least one single-hour’s trip to see Tommy play. That will be five months from today when Notre Dame visits Sanford Stadium for the first time in history. And the family couldn’t be more excited about it.
Greg Tremble said he remains a proud UGA alum and letterman and he has cheered passionately for his Bulldogs over the years. But he won’t be on Sept. 21.
He’ll be rocking the blue and gold along with the other 15 to 20 Notre Dame parents that the Trembles will be hosting in their Country Club of the South home that weekend.
“That’s that blood-is-thicker-than-water stuff,” Greg Tremble said with a big laugh. “It’d probably look pretty odd if I went up there in my red and all those parents had on the blue and gold. But we’ve come to really love Notre Dame, too. We just fell in love with the campus, fell in love with the coaches, the campus. And academically, it’s great up there. The academic part and the football part, I just thought it was a win-win.”
At this early juncture, it’s starting to look like tight end Tommy Tremble may be a win for Notre Dame as well.