It is finally, thoroughly summer. The offseason is here, as short as it is. Notre Dame will kick off against Ohio State in 117 days and will return to the practice field 29 days before that. Do that quick math, and as of tomorrow, there are 87 days until the Irish return to football activities.
While we all enjoy summer vacations, holiday cookouts and music festivals, some football thoughts can and should still pass the time. They always have. They always will.
Thus, yes, tomorrow, yet another rendition of Notre Dame 99-to-0 will commence. This will be the fifth time in six years the series has passed the time, the exception obviously being the uncertain and silent summer of 2020. If counting this series’ predecessor, Irish A-to-Z, it extends back to 2014.
The purpose remains the same: Give an in-depth look at each player on Notre Dame’s roster heading into 2022. It allows some players to resurface in your consciousness after a few quiet seasons: Senior defensive tackle Jacob Lacey comes to mind; he may start this fall after amassing 30 tackles across the last three years, making 11 appearances in each season, largely as a reserve. Some unique but unheralded stories get told: The origin of Bo Bauer’s #BeADog mentality from last summer comes to mind; junior punter Bryan Dowd’s double-duty between soccer and football may warrant such notice this year.
Mostly, it fills these quiet months and serves as a literal countdown until the season is on the precipice. No, as of tomorrow, practices will not be 99 days away, and the count will remain inflated as such until a precipitous drop from No. 72 Caleb Johnson to No. 57 Jayson Ademilola within just five days, but the falling jersey numbers should serve as a figurative calendar countdown, nonetheless.
Tomorrow will begin with either junior defensive lineman Rylie Mills or fifth-year Arkansas State transfer kicker Blake Grupe. Both wear No. 99, though they could not look more different in doing so.
Rylie Mills (6-5 1/8, 283) is nearly a foot taller than Blake Grupe (5-7 3/8, 150) and weighs nearly twice as many pounds… But they both wear No. 99 for Notre Dame.
College football rules. pic.twitter.com/KTawh0CVIN
— Tyler Horka (@tbhorka) March 27, 2022
Which one kicks us off is a decision very sincerely not yet made. Perhaps Grupe should get the honor since it will be his only chance to, while Mills has done so each of the last two seasons and presumably will again in 2023. (Only now, in confirming he led off, remembering this series began in 2020 before an indefinite furlough cut it short in its first days. Alas.)
Fifth-year receiver Braden Lenzy will wrap up the series for only the second time. Keep in mind, the No. 0 was not allowed by the NCAA until the 2020 season. Before that, Lenzy wore No. 25. As of now, the content calendar expects Lenzy’s entry to come Aug. 4, the day before the Irish should return to the practice field, but the content calendar also has 86 entries and the NCAA allows only 85 scholarship players in the fall, so some of this is always in flux.
Not to mention, this scribe has a personal failing that he will not work ahead by 10 days before taking his nieces, nephews and parents camping, and sometimes the hotspot connection is not so strong from the shores of Lake Michigan. That could always lead to later compensation by publishing both sophomore safety Justin Walters and sophomore running back Logan Diggs on the same day, both wearing No. 22. Worse things could happen, but they will also hopefully be avoided.
Some numbers will be guessed and corrected later on, the first of which should be incoming freshman tight end Eli Raridon. He is currently slotted at No. 89, mostly because the digits are available and within the parameters expected of tight ends. Again, some flux remains despite this being an annual series.
From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the season will come again soon.