If 2020 taught college football anything — aside from the ability to schedule games on the fly, the added value of the FCS playing in the fall and the inevitability of the coaching carousel no matter the outside circumstances — it was the value of the long snapper.
Long-only noticed when a certain head coach quipped, “He’s the long snapper,” out of exasperation during a halftime interview, an emergency long snapper situation seemed to arise somewhere in the country on a weekly basis. Most rosters have only one, and when that player was ruled out for a week due to coronavirus protocols, that team could no longer safely punt. Things went so awry for Louisiana Lafayette late in the season, the Ragin’ Cajuns intentionally took a safety — their second safety of the fourth quarter — in the closing minutes of a game they led by only five, giving Appalachian State a viable chance at a tie or even a win.
By that point in the year, an early December game, it was not even terribly shocking to be in the position.
Such moments should not be as prevalent in 2021, if happening at all, as teams and universities strongly encourage their players to get vaccinated, but still, lesson learned: Have two long snappers.
Notre Dame already did.
Walk-on Michael Vinson beat out then-freshman Alex Peitsch for the starting gig in 2020 and will presumably hold onto that honor in 2021, but either way, if the Irish need to dig into long snapper reserves, they are the rare team to have a long snapper reserve.
This 99-to-0 entry slots in at Peitsch’s number, No. 44, despite Vinson, No. 65, being the likely starter. There is no great reason for that other than some springtime outlines sketched it out that way. So we’ll start by rattling through Peitsch’s information, but make no mistake, both long snappers matter. 2020 proved that.
Listed measurements: 6-foot-1 ⅛, 208 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Peitsch still has four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Expect Vinson to start with Peitsch the hopefully unnecessary emergency option that was so rare when needed in 2020.
Recruiting: Widely considered the No. 1 or No. 2 long snapper in the class of 2020, the Under Armour All-American committed to Notre Dame eight full months before signing.
CAREER TO DATE
Peitsch appeared in the 52-0 blowout of South Florida in 2020.
NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Could Peitsch secure a small bit of compensation from the specialty camp he once frequented? It would make some sense.
— Kohl's Snapping Camps (@KohlsSnapping) January 3, 2020
While Vinson should remain the starter, Peitsch may see more mop-up duty this season. Even in a year with some roster uncertainty, the Irish should blow out the likes of Toledo, Navy and Stanford, at which point every backup should get work, even if doing so jeopardizes a kicker’s percentages or net yardages.
DOWN THE ROAD
Vinson will almost certainly end his collegiate career after 2021, at which point Peitsch will still have three seasons of eligibility remaining. There should be every expectation he starts for at least two of those.
— Tyler James (@TJamesNDI) May 8, 2021
Listed measurements: 6-foot-2, 226 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A senior, Vinson could have as many as three seasons of eligibility remaining.
Recruiting: A walk-on, Vinson would be one of the first two names called by Irish head coach Brian Kelly if the roster ends up with a spare couple scholarships in 2021.
CAREER TO DATE
Vinson played in two games in 2019 before handling all first-team duties in 2020.
Vinson was nominated for the Burlsworth Trophy in 2020, recognizing the country’s most outstanding present or former walk-on. While it would be a surprise to see a long snapper win that, it is at least a bit of recognition for a player who once upon a time may have never thought he would get any whatsoever.
NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Again, maybe someday these specialists can get a few dates paid for by their past coaches.
The benefits of being a Rubio Long Snapper!
Keep up the great work Vinson!
Loooooong line of Rubio Long Snappers at Notre Dame and a hype video for one is fantastic and well deserved! #RubioFamily #TheFactory #GoIrish https://t.co/cCGpQ846j7
— Rubio Long Snapping® (@TheChrisRubio) March 11, 2021
While Notre Dame intentionally supplemented its specialists room with preferred walk-ons, it had no idea Vinson would create the comfort levels he did as far as depth concerns go.
“We invited Michael into the program as a freshman because we felt like he had potential to be the backup, that he could get us out of a game if we had to,” Irish special teams coordinator Brian Polian said in April. “Over the course of two years, he worked so diligently and so hard off to the side on his own, and he worked so hard at trying to get stronger and to be athletic enough to function on the coverage units down there, trying to cover a punt against (Alabama’s) DeVonta Smith.
“I can’t express how proud I am that we brought a scholarship freshman in (Peitsch) and Michael beat him out, fair and square. That’s all we can promise, ‘Hey, Michael, you’ll get the chance to compete.’ Sure enough, he won the job and he won it cleanly.”
Very simply, aside from perhaps a punt tackle or two, Notre Dame would rather you never think about “Milk” again. Thus is the nature of the long snapper position.
That is the moral of this story. In 2020, long snapper debacles became a weekly occurrence. The national laughter was matched only by cringes as games devolved after the first bad snap led to a hesitant second snap and then an anxiety-riddled third.
Vinson proving himself capable, let alone the starter, made it so the Irish could survive the pandemic without any long snapper panic.
NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end