Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 19 Jay Bramblett, junior punter

Jay Bramblett 2021
Notre Dame Athletics
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-1 ½, 193 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A junior, Bramblett has three seasons of eligibility remaining, one of those years an additional one granted by the universal pandemic eligibility waiver.
Depth Chart: It would take an unfathomable streak of shanks for Bramblett to lose his grip on all of Notre Dame’s punting duties.
Recruiting: The All-American was considered the No. 4 punter in the country, per rivals.com, and chose the Irish over Missouri.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Some of the most memorable NIL deals this month have been self-deprecating in nature, or at least the tag lines along with them have acknowledged the reality of that situation. With that in mind, there is potential here for the former high school quarterback …

CAREER TO DATE
Through two seasons, Bramblett has not blown anyone away with his booming distance. He averaged 39.4 yards on his 63 punts as a freshman, and 42.8 on his 43 boots as a sophomore. Neither number is astounding, nor is either disgraceful.

They also were not simply worthwhile punts. They were neutralizing ones.

In both seasons, 28 percent of Bramblett’s punts ended up inside the 20-yard- line, but perhaps even more impressive, only that same number have been returned. Bramblett has sent the ball to the opponent 106 times in two seasons, and only 30 times did the opponent even consider returning the offering. They averaged a whopping 3.67 yards per return in 2020, good for No. 20 in the country for Notre Dame’s coverage unit. In 2019, opponents gained 3.89 yards per punt return, slotting the Irish coverage unit at No. 15 in the nation.

More important than 48- or 50-yard punts, Bramblett’s ability to mitigate opponents’ best open-field playmakers has been an invaluable utility for Notre Dame.

QUOTE
Despite Bramblett’s stellar punting, it may have been his more typical football plays that will long hold memories. In the 2020 season opener, as the Irish somewhat scuffled against an overmatched Duke, Bramblett took a fake punt for a 14-yard gain and a first down.

Then against Clemson, as Notre Dame clung to momentum and competitiveness heading toward halftime, everything nearly went awry when Tigers star Travis Etienne fielded a short field goal attempt. Only one player stopped Etienne from scoring a touchdown with no time left in the first half. (Keep this return in mind when pondering the aforementioned return averages.)

“I really pride myself on being able to do stuff like that and being somebody that the team is gonna lean on when a big play is needed,” Bramblett said this spring of those two plays. “Obviously, it’s not shiny and all great being a punter. You’re not the quarterback anymore, that’s for sure.

“With the importance of some of those plays and just being called upon, it’s a pretty big deal to me and I take that really seriously and want to be able to do everything I can for the team.”

2021 OUTLOOK
The Irish will be pleased if Bramblett can continue to deliver stifling punts as he has to date, but age, maturity and conditioning should lead to longer punts without losing that key skill.

Boosting 42.767 yards per punt up to 43.5 may not seem like a big deal, but that is really suggesting Bramblett will total 30 more yards on punts in 2021 than he did in 2020. Maybe those 30 yards come across five punts that in the past simply have not been hit as squarely as they should have been. Six yards on five separate possessions could prove to be the difference in a game or two.

That is what is lost when discussing punters. Field position’s effects are not seen until long after the field position is forgotten, but the conversation should trace back to that snap starting a drive.

If Bramblett has to forfeit a heart-stopping tackle or an athletic run in order to influence a game in a more subtle way, so be it. Notre Dame will welcome that sacrifice.

DOWN THE ROAD
If there is a position where the Irish should strongly consider enjoying the benefits of the universal pandemic eligibility waiver, it is punter. Planning ahead — as in, not recruiting another punter for a couple cycles — will mean Bramblett is not holding back another possibly superior talent, and he should have little reason to head to the NFL as quickly as possible. Punters’ shelf lives are the opposite of running backs’, and there are so few of the jobs available in the first place.

With someone as reliable and effective as Bramblett, Notre Dame should be so lucky as to have him punting through the 2023 season, and it is hard to come up with a reason for Bramblett to turn down that opportunity.

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
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception
No. 38 Jason Onye, incoming and raw freshman defensive end
No. 37 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
No. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, senior cornerback, possible nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker
No. 26 Clarence Lewis, sophomore cornerback, second-year starter
No. 25 Philip Riley, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, speedy sophomore running back
No. 24 Jack Kiser, junior linebacker, onetime pandemic hero
No. 23 Litchfield Ajavon, junior safety
No. 23 Kyren Williams, junior running back
No. 22 Logan Diggs, incoming freshman running back
No. 22 Chance Tucker, freshman cornerback
No. 21 Lorenzo Styles, early-enrolled freshman receiver
No. 21 Caleb Offord, sophomore cornerback
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, senior running back, coming off an offseason with a smirch
No. 20 Justin Walters, early-enrolled freshman safety and likely early special teams contributor