And In That Corner … No. 19 North Carolina poses biggest road challenge of Notre Dame’s season

Sam Howell
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North Carolina no longer has a viable route to the ACC title game, but the No. 19 Tar Heels still pose the greatest threat to No. 2 Notre Dame’s momentum on that path. A prolific offense compensates for a sporadic defense to make Mack Brown’s team nothing if not entertaining. To give an idea of what version of that dynamic the Irish should expect Friday, let’s turn to C.L. Brown of The News & Observer, who aptly summed up North Carolina with his opening thought.

“It’s a fun team to watch offensively. They’re still trying to figure it out defensively. They have some great skill players and, so far anyway, they can score on anybody.”

DF: A fun team to watch indeed. It’s been a run of games now when the Tar Heels have needed that offense to show off, giving up 53 points to Wake Forest and 44 to Virginia. Aside from falling just short against the Cavaliers, sophomore quarterback Sam Howell has conjured up the needed magic. What has allowed him to make those performances so routine?

CLB: It seems like somebody in some way, shape or form asks that question of Phil Longo, the offensive coordinator, every week. We talked to Longo [Monday], and he goes back to Howell’s poise. He’s just a pretty even-keeled kid. He never, even last year when he was a freshman starter, never really buys into the hype of himself. Never gets too high, doesn’t get too low.

His knowledge of the offense is what Longo says puts him over the top, because he’s well-prepared for not only their game plan but versed in how a defense is going to try to play them in certain concepts that they have.

Howell doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He still has yet to throw an interception in the fourth quarter, which I think is pretty remarkable, given that he started all of last season, too. He’s just somebody who is relentlessly going to keep coming. That’s what happened, they got down 21 points to Wake Forest. You knew the offense was going to score again. The question was only, could the defense get enough stops for that to matter. They pulled it out, 59-53.

There must be at least one flaw, one weakness in Howell. I am not trying to diminish his nearly 330 yards per game and 10.6 yards per attempt, or his 23 touchdowns against six interceptions. But aside from possibly Trevor Lawrence last year or Tua Tagovailoa in 2018, no sophomore quarterback is perfect. What is Howell’s shortcoming?

One of the major things that — he hasn’t said it publicly, but you can see it on the sideline sometimes — that drives Phil Longo crazy is Howell believes so much in himself that he will string out plays way longer than he should. A lot of times it will lead to a sack. He’s only now starting to throw the ball away as he should. He tends to hold the ball. There have been times when Longo, you can see on the sideline, has reacted. He probably wants to have those back. He has been pretty animated.

It didn’t happen as much in this last game against Wake Forest, but you see it happening in that loss at Virginia, the loss at Florida State. Howell tries to string it out too long, believes he can still make something happen, and then he gets dropped for 7-8 yards.

Tar Heels junior running back Javonte Williams leads a ground attack averaging 233.5 yards per game in a complementary role to Sam Howell’s passing attack. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Of course, Howell is not a one-man show, and North Carolina’s is not a one-dimensional offense. Both Javonte Williams and Michael Carter have rushed for more than 800 yards, with Williams finding the end zone 15 times. Do they set up the passing game or vice versa? Which aspect should Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea make his priority?

They’re independent. Now, there are times where certainly the ground game gets going and then they are impossible to stop off play-action. It gets to be video game quality when the running game is going, because it’s hard for a defense to key in on something and know what’s coming, but I kind of feel like, in the Wake Forest game again as an example, they weren’t running the ball well, plus being behind 21, Sam Howell just starts chucking the ball. That’s how he ends up with his career highs.

I do think that in this game on Friday, they definitely need both. If Notre Dame can make the Tar Heels one-dimensional on offense, the Irish are going to win easily. They’ll need to keep Notre Dame off-balance to be productive.

Honestly, I think the first drive of the game that Carolina has the ball will tell a lot, because it has taken the opening drive for a touchdown in every game except at Florida State and Wake Forest. All the rest of the games, the Heels have scored a touchdown on their opening possession. I think we’ll have a tell for if it’s going to be, maybe not necessarily a long game, but we’ll see if maybe the Irish have their number early on just because of the success North Carolina has in scripting out the first drive and executing that first drive in all of these games.

We focus so much on Howell and the offense because the Heels defense is, to be charitable, not good. To quantify that charity, North Carolina gives up 30.8 points per game, including 35.5 in the last four, and more than 400 yards per game. It’s lazy to ask, “Why is the defense so bad?” but, this is a short week and I need to get a pound of duck wings into a marinade, so why is the defense so bad?

It has to do with them still trying to develop depth. Especially in the front seven, on the defensive line, they have their starter, an experienced guy, and then they get to young and freshmen backups at just about every position.

When that goes well, it can turn the game, as it did at Wake Forest, because they ended up going with some of their younger guys late in the game, and it helped on the defensive line, helped get some of the starters fresh for later in the fourth quarter.

Tar Heels freshman cornerback Tony Grimes saw crucial action once North Carolina was trailing at Wake Forest, even though he is of the age as most high school seniors. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

At corner, the youngsters played better that game than the guys who were experienced. Tony Grimes is a true freshman from Virginia who reclassified to enroll in school this year; he should be a senior in high school. He was rated by some as the No. 1 overall corner in the nation in that class. He’s played special teams and spot duty on defense, but they basically threw him to the fire once they were down 21 to Wake Forest, because they weren’t getting the kind of coverage that they needed.

He played solid. He ended up giving up a big play late once they got up 14, and Wake Forest scored on their final drive of the game, but outside of that he was solid. They also have a true freshman nickel back/safety, Ja’Qurious Conley, who they also just threw out there, too. Same thing, same time against Wake Forest, and he came through.

The secondary in general went from being what they thought was going to be a strength back in August in fall camp to having three guys opt out before the season, and their two starting corners — Kyler McMichael and Storm Duck — have been injured. Now Storm Duck only played two games, he was injured against Boston College, late in the fourth quarter of the second game, and hasn’t played at all, but he’s being cleared for practice and will be a game-time decision to actually play. He’s probably considered their No. 1 cover corner when healthy.

Kyler McMichael is a Clemson transfer who started every game except the last two. He will play, it’s just a matter of how much. We don’t really know if he’ll make the start. I feel like if he’s even 75 percent, no matter how rusty he is, he’ll start, because that’s where they are at corner right now.

Just the attrition they’ve had. They’ve had Myles Wolfolk, a graduate safety, ended up being academically ineligible. He played the first game and then was academically ineligible. They’ve had basically — it went from being a place where they thought they were going to have all this experience to getting younger and younger and now it’s patchwork in the secondary.

If they get both Duck and McMichael back, that’s definitely a big step for them to getting back to actually being a better defense and a defense that doesn’t have to rely on the offense to score 40 a game.

We are looking at a 5-point spread currently. Who knows if there will be holiday movement or a Black Friday discount. That is not so much meant as a forced reference to Thanksgiving as it is an acknowledgment that the line movement could come at an unorthodox time during this short week. What do you expect Friday (3:30 ET; ABC)?

Wow, that’s all? I’m not a betting person, but I would expect the Irish to cover that. I don’t want to say it like it’s going to be a cakewalk for Notre Dame to come here and win. You see the glimpses that this North Carolina can be a great team, but you also see the losses at Florida State and at Virginia. The Heels are not there yet. They can play tough, they show glimpses, especially with the offense that they have; this can be a special team, but they fall short.

They are definitely looking at this game as a barometer game to measure where they are nationally. When North Carolina got up to No. 5 before it lost to Florida State, at the time [Heels head coach] Mack Brown even said, that’s too high. Part of that was the season we’re in and the pandemic and everything — teams weren’t playing at that time.

I do think North Carolina is a top-25 team, and this game will show how far or how short they have to go to be a consistent team that is respected and feared even.

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 83 Jayden Thomas, junior receiver, probable No. 1 target in 2023

Notre Dame Spring Football Game
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-1 ½, 220 pounds.
2023-24 year, eligibility: A junior, Thomas has three years of eligibility remaining thanks to playing in only three games as a freshman.
Depth Chart: Thomas’s moments of success in 2022 made him a clear starter for this coming season, the only question being at what position. By the end of spring practices, Thomas looked like the frontrunner at the boundary position, a similar big body as past boundary stars Miles Boykin, Chase Claypool and Kevin Austin, though significantly shorter than those predecessors.
Recruiting: Considered the No. 45 receiver in the class of 2021 by, Thomas turned down most of the SEC as he chose Notre Dame, most notably his homestate Georgia. And any recruit chased by the Bulldogs in the last four years stands out more than usual given the overall quality of Georgia’s roster.

Thomas played all of 14 snaps as a freshman, spread across three November blowouts, but in practices leading up to the 2021 Fiesta Bowl, there was increasing hype around him possibly contributing. Then, Thomas did not play against Oklahoma State, despite then-Irish quarterback Jack Coan setting a program record with 70 dropbacks while throwing to effectively just three receivers.

That literal no-show threw Thomas’s progress into doubt. Was the hype real or the product of a fluke bowl practice?

Thomas proved it real with 25 catches for 361 yards and three touchdowns last season, including five snags for 66 yards in the Gator Bowl win against South Carolina. Of those 25 receptions, 18 gained a first down, including eight on third down and another pair on second-and-long. When Notre Dame needed a chunk gain and tight end Michael Mayer was covered, Thomas was the most frequent beneficiary.

2021: 3 games.
2022: 13 games, 7 starts; 25 catches for 361 yards and three touchdowns, highlighted by three catches for 80 yards and a score against Navy.

Thomas is an avid golfer, at least as much as a Division I football player can be. (Scroll to the last picture in this Instagram post to see evidence of such.) Given NBC may be the biggest broadcast partner in golf, one would think some opportunity could exist for Thomas down the road, be it with a sponsor or simply a day watching a tournament from an up-close vantage point.

Until then, Thomas offers personalized videos for fans via Cameo.

Thomas excelled out of the slot last season, many of those first-down gains coming when he worked downfield just past the linebacker level but still in front of the safeties. That positioning was advantageous for Thomas, and he knew it.

“In the slot, I definitely feel like I can get mismatches, whether that’s a nickel, smaller nickel, safety or even a linebacker,” Thomas said this spring. “None of those people can guard me at all.”

But with senior Chris Tyree moving to receiver from running back, slot is most likely filled by his speed. Moving Thomas to boundary will require some physical growth from him, even if some analysts already mistake him for a tight end.

“Definitely in the offseason, the spring, got to gain a little bit more muscle just to help me with my physicality and also speed,” Thomas said.

“The spring version of Thomas was tantalizing. A leg injury played a role in his hushed freshman season, as did the strong play of Kevin Austin. Now fully healthy and without any clear-cut starter ahead of him, Thomas broke through. He may not be towering, but he has a wide frame, its own version of a size advantage. He ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash before arriving at Notre Dame, better speed than one expects when looking at him.

“That combination is what the Irish had in mind when they chased the Peach State product. That combination could make him a 2022 starter. At the very least, he will be a contributor.

“Notre Dame needs him to be.

“When the Irish face Ohio State (104 days), they will have just six or seven healthy scholarship receivers. One of those will be a former walk-on, Matt Salerno. Another will be a freshman yet to partake in a single practice, Tobias Merriweather. The ‘or seven’ will be sixth-year Avery Davis, recovering from an ACL torn in November. It seems increasingly likely fifth-year Joe Wilkins is not yet full-go after suffering a Lisfranc injury this spring.

“Notre Dame will hardly have a two-deep depth chart at receiver, so each available will be needed.

“And this spring suggested Thomas will be up to that task. If all he needs is chances like he got this spring, then he will have them. If he can produce — especially before Wilkins returns later in the season — then the Irish will continue going to him; they will have no one else to go to.

“A dozen catches from Thomas this season may seem like minimal production, but that would be enough to force defenses to acknowledge him on routes, opening up the field for the likes of [Braden] Lenzy, [Lorenzo] Styles and star tight end Michael Mayer. If he builds that out to 20 catches, then suddenly Notre Dame’s offense may be nearing a worthwhile hum. …

“Lenzy should be gone in 2023. Davis certainly will be. Wilkins’ injury throws some uncertainty into his projections. But either way, the time will fully arrive for the Irish stellar 2021 receiver recruiting to pay off.

“Pulling in a trio of four-star receivers was unlike Notre Dame of late. It had not snagged that many four-star receivers in one class since 2015. In the five cycles between those two classes, the Irish snagged a total of 5 four- or five-star receivers, lowlighted by not signing a single receiver in the class of 2019.

“Things have bettered in this regard, or they at least seem to be, but for now, Notre Dame still needs to make the most of every possible perimeter playmaker it has on its roster. All three of Styles, [Deion] Colzie and Thomas need to pan out for the Irish to sniff the Playoff in the next two or three seasons.

“A full season of snaps with that dozen catches could propel Thomas into a strong offseason and such rewards.”

Thomas met and exceeded last year’s modest expectations, more impressive when remembering he was not a consistent starter until the season’s final month. Stepping into a more leading role with a far more prolific quarterback directing the offense should amplify Thomas’s stats by default.

Are 50 catches possible? Yes, though that may be about Thomas’s ceiling this season, given Wake Forest transfer quarterback Sam Hartman should want to spread the ball around his targets, and 50 receptions could be nearly a fifth of Hartman’s completions.

More precisely, Thomas continuing to provide needed chunk gains would propel Notre Dame’s offense in ways that other receivers may be unable. Continuing at last year’s rate of first downs while catching 50 passes would equal moving the chains 36 times. That may be extreme, but doing so twice per week would make Thomas one of the more crucial receiving targets in recent Irish offenses.

All of Notre Dame’s receivers, aside from former walk-on Matt Salerno, may return in 2024, and the junior duo of Thomas and Deion Colzie should be the established leaders next year. With that acknowledged reality, pondering a transfer from Thomas would be foolish.

It would take a far more prolific season than 50 catches for Thomas to ponder the NFL, not boasting elite speed or shiftiness which are the usual musts for early draft entrants among receivers.

In other words, Thomas may be looking to snag triple-digit catches across the next two seasons, if not more.

Thomas’ leadership, freshmen arrivals already improve Notre Dame’s receivers room

The summer countdown begins anew, Rylie Mills to Deion Colzie
No. 99 Rylie Mills, senior defensive tackle, moving back inside from end
No. 98 Devan Houstan, early-enrolled four-star defensive tackle
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, junior defensive tackle, one of three Irish DTs with notable experience
No. 95 Tyson Ford, sophomore defensive tackle, up 30 pounds from a year ago
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a senior defensive tackle now ‘fully healthy’ after a 2022 torn ACL
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, sophomore defensive end, former four-star recruit
No. 90* Brenan Vernon, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90* Boubacar Traore, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, the next starter at ‘TE U’
No. 86* Cooper Flanagan, incoming freshman tight end, four-star recruit
No. 85 Holden Staes, sophomore tight end, up 20 pounds in a year
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, senior tight end coming off a torn ACL
Rhode Island transfer safety Antonio Carter gives Notre Dame desperately needed backline depth

One defensive lineman drops from Notre Dame’s class of 2024, consensus four-star end Loghan Thomas joins


Only a few hours after a consensus four-star defensive lineman de-committed from Notre Dame, the Irish landed a pledge from consensus four-star defensive end Loghan Thomas (Paetow High School; Katy, Texas) on Wednesday evening. After a visit to South Bend this weekend, Thomas chose Notre Dame over finalists Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Arizona.

LSU, Texas, Texas A&M and USC were among the others to offer Thomas a scholarship.

A two-year starter already in high school, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Thomas’s body-type alone likely caught some recruiters’ attention. On top of that, he tested well at recruiting events following his junior season. ranks Thomas the No. 9 weakside defensive end in the class of 2024, the No. 30 overall prospect in the state of Texas and the No. 162 recruit in the entire class, all fitting for a player who has used his length to star at a strong level of high school football.

Length has long — pun intended — been a focus for Irish head coach Marcus Freeman along the defensive line, and Thomas’s combines with enough strength to make arm tackles without much worry of a broken carry. His stride is long enough to quickly cover ground in the backfield.

Thomas plays mostly out of a two-point stance, upright, so learning the nuances of rushing the passer from a three-point stance will be the first piece of growth ahead of him at the collegiate level. Adding some heft to his frame will also be on the to-do list, though that should occur naturally, at least to some extent, in the next 18 months regardless.

Thomas joins Notre Dame’s class the same day consensus four-star defensive tackle Owen Wafle (Hun School; Princeton, N.J.) halted a year-long commitment.

“This decision was not made lightly, as Notre Dame has a rich football legacy that I truly admire,” Wafle wrote on Twitter. “However, I believe it’s important for me to explore other opportunities and find the best fit for my personal and athletic development.”

With Wafle’s de-commitment and Thomas’s commitment, the Irish continue to have 16 expected signees in the class of 2024 and three defensive linemen, Thomas joining consensus three-star end Cole Mullins (Mill Creek H.S.; Hoschton, Ga.) and four-star end Bryce Young (Charlotte Christian; N.C.).

Notre Dame announces 2023 NBC kickoff times, led by Ohio State and USC in prime time

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Notre Dame will host two preseason top-25 teams, possibly both top-10 teams, in back-to-back home games in prime time in 2023, the Irish and NBC announced Wednesday afternoon. Ohio State’s Sept. 23 visit and USC’s Oct. 14 arrival will both kick off at 7:30 ET.

Coming off a College Football Playoff appearance and third in the last four years, the Buckeyes look poised to again contend for the Big Ten title and a possible Playoff bid. Not to be too blunt, but the trip to Notre Dame will be Ohio State’s first genuine challenge of 2023, opening the season at Indiana before welcoming FCS-level Youngstown State and then Western Kentucky.

Notre Dame will have already played four games, including a trip abroad and a trip to North Carolina State.

That season-opening venture to Dublin will feature a later kickoff than may have been anticipated. Announced on Tuesday as a sellout, Notre Dame will kick off at 2:30 ET on NBC against Navy, much later than the 9 a.m. kickoff in 2012, the last time the Irish and the Midshipmen played in Ireland. This year’s trip is somewhat a make-up from having to scrap the planned trip in 2020, hence the unusual occurrence of Notre Dame playing a home game away from South Bend in this annual series.

After the dalliance across the Atlantic, the Irish will face an FCS-level program for the first time in history, Tennessee State and head coach Eddie George visiting on Sept. 2 at 3:30 ET. Logically, as soon as Notre Dame agreed to move its date with Navy to Dublin, meeting an FCS opponent became inevitable, either that or shoehorn in an early off week.

Instead, the Trojans will arrive in South Bend just before the first Irish off week, also kicking off at 7:30 ET on Oct. 14. With Heisman-winner, Heisman-frontrunner and contender to be the No. 1 pick quarterback Caleb Williams leading it, USC will also be a trendy Playoff contender in 2023. Competitively, the Trojans will be coming off a rather pedestrian early-season stretch.

Looking at ESPN’s SP+ rankings to gauge the first half of USC’s schedule sheds light on how likely it is the Trojans will be undefeated in mid-October. None of their first six opponents rank in the top 60 in the country, and three of them are in the bottom 30. Again leaning into the SP+ numbers, USC should be favored by three possessions in every one of those games, with the first three of those looking like edges well north of 30 points and two more being around four touchdowns.

Thus, Notre Dame and NBC should welcome multiple unbeaten top-10 teams in primetime this year.

The 33rd year of Notre Dame on NBC will feature six games aired on both NBC and Peacock, NBC’s streaming service, as well as one game exclusively available on Peacock, the Sept. 16 tilt with Central Michigan at 2:30 ET.

The Irish home slate will conclude with a Senior Day showing from Wake Forest at 3:30 ET on Nov. 18, new Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman’s previous team.

Aug. 26: vs. Navy in Dublin at 2:30 ET
Sept. 2: vs. Tennessee State at 3:30 ET
Sept. 16: vs. Central Michigan at 2:30 ET on Peacock
Sept. 23: vs. Ohio State at 7:30 ET
Oct. 14: vs. USC at 7:30 ET
Oct. 28: vs. Pittsburgh at 3:30 ET
Nov. 18: vs. Wake Forest at 3:30 ET

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 84 Kevin Bauman, senior tight end coming off a torn ACL

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Georgia Tech at Notre Dame
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-4 ½, 252 pounds.
2023-24 year, eligibility: A senior, Bauman has three years of eligibility remaining. Yes, he could end up playing a sixth year somewhere in 2025, if he so chooses. The universal pandemic eligibility waiver meant Bauman’s injury-shortened 2022 could serve as his traditional season preserving eligibility.
Depth Chart: A year ago, Bauman was considered Notre Dame’s second tight end, but he may be as low as No. 4 entering 2023, in part due to his injury and in part due to junior Mitchell Evans and sophomore Holden Staes making the most of their opportunities last season.
Recruiting: Bauman had the misfortune of being the same age as Michael Mayer, the latter ranked No. 3 among tight ends in the class of 2020 while Bauman was the No. 5, per Michigan gave late pursuit to Bauman, but the New Jersey native stuck with the Irish, the only program he genuinely considered.

Bauman was progressing gradually before his 2022 was cut short by a torn ACL after a broken leg delayed the start of his 2021. The ACL injury kept Bauman sidelined in the most recent spring practices.

2020: 4 games; 1 catch for 5 yards.
2021: 5 games; 1 catch for 10 yards.
2022: 3 games; 3 catches for 44 yards.

Bauman tore his ACL in September, making it quite plausible he is full-go when preseason practices commence at the end of July, which will be 10-plus months after the injury. Recovery from an ACL tear typically takes about nine months nowadays, wild to think about given Adrian Peterson first pioneered that timetable in football as recently as 2012.

Do not mistake a shortened ACL recovery timeline as an easier rehab.

“It’s been a journey,” Bauman said in March. “It’s been tough, a little more than five months out now from surgery. It’s been a grind. Toughest part has been committing to that grind, knowing it’s going to take some time. Have to have some patience.

“It’s going well. I feel great physically. I’m starting to long jump, all that stuff.”

There was never a timetable that included Bauman partaking in spring practices, but he held hope for summer work.

“I’m hoping by summer workouts, I should be 100 percent, fully cleared,” he said. “But then definitely by fall camp.”

“Bauman or Evans, one will be Mayer’s backup, and the other will be a piece of the offense, always just one snap away from being a core piece of it. Though a former high school quarterback, Evans’ 2021 may have given him the slight edge over the former highly-touted tight end recruit Bauman.

“The key thing to remember is, no matter the pecking order of tight ends Nos. 2 and 3, they will remain behind a likely All-American who will be both the fulcrum and the engine of the Irish offense.

“There should still be a role for Bauman, be it as the No. 2 or 3 tight end. A handful of catches is likely the minimum, with one perhaps coming in the end zone. …

“That ‘2022 Outlook’ is not meant to diminish Bauman. Any tight end at Notre Dame warrants the benefit of the doubt, simply because of the track record of ‘Tight End U.’ It is meant to continue to emphasize Mayer’s talent and how it looms over the rest of the tight ends.

“He’ll be gone after this season.

“Then it will be Bauman’s time, along with Evans and sophomore Cane Berrong, not to mention the two incoming freshmen. Who will emerge as the new lead is a parlor game better suited for next winter, but its best clues will come this fall.”

When Evans took the field, coming off a July foot injury, Bauman and then-freshman Eli Raridon had already been sidelined by injuries. As Evans found his role, the futures of those like Bauman changed in step with Evans’s successes. That was through no fault of Bauman’s; it is irrational to criticize a former high-profile recruit for not breaking out when two unrelated injuries cut short his only non-pandemic seasons.

But it is a reality, nonetheless.

Evans and Staes are Notre Dame’s top-two tight ends at this point, with Raridon representing a higher ceiling than Bauman, though both remain bets on potential.

Thus, Bauman’s 2023 may be minimal. He should play and play plenty, but only in supplementary roles, barring injuries to Evans and/or Staes. That could result in a handful of catches for Bauman, a disproportionate number of them coming near the goal line.

Think back to the stat lines of Nic Weishar and George Takacs.

Weishar in 2017: Nine catches with two touchdowns.
Weishar in 2018: Three catches with two touchdowns.

Takacs in 2019: Two catches with one touchdown.
Takacs in 2021: Three catches with one touchdown.

Tight ends are simply more prone to those kinds of catches-to-scores ratios given the propensity to run multiple tight-end sets in goal-to-go situations.

A transfer following this season seems the most likely route for Bauman. Barring a breakout, somehow leapfrogging Evans and Staes, there will simply be no realistic path to a leading role in South Bend in 2024.

With two years of eligibility remaining after this season along with his high-profile recruitment, Bauman should have plenty of options for landing spots. Cane Berrong just landed at Coastal Carolina with less collegiate statistics and a lower recruiting profile, for example.

The summer countdown begins anew, Rylie Mills to Deion Colzie
No. 99 Rylie Mills, senior defensive tackle, moving back inside from end
No. 98 Devan Houstan, early-enrolled four-star defensive tackle
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, junior defensive tackle, one of three Irish DTs with notable experience
No. 95 Tyson Ford, sophomore defensive tackle, up 30 pounds from a year ago
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a senior defensive tackle now ‘fully healthy’ after a 2022 torn ACL
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, sophomore defensive end, former four-star recruit
No. 90* Brenan Vernon, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90* Boubacar Traore, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, the next starter at ‘TE U’
No. 86* Cooper Flanagan, incoming freshman tight end, four-star recruit
No. 85 Holden Staes, sophomore tight end, up 20 pounds in a year
Rhode Island transfer safety Antonio Carter gives Notre Dame desperately needed backline depth