Things To Learn: Notre Dame hopes to shorten game tonight at Ohio State by “establishing the run”

Only so much can be known before the season opener, even by the head coach. As Marcus Freeman spends every waking moment worrying he has not prepared his team as he should, he knows what he doesn’t know.

No. 5 Notre Dame has faced only itself for weeks. If the offensive line excels, it comes at the cost of added doubt about the defensive line. If the defensive backs dominate, worries about the receivers may fester. Only in facing outside competition, let alone the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes, can tell Freeman exactly what he has on his hands in his debut season as the Irish head coach.

“We’ll see after the game exactly where our strengths are and where our weaknesses are,” Freeman said Monday.

Facing Ohio State (ABC; 7 ET) will shine a bright light on those strengths and weaknesses, maybe the brightest light of the opening weekend. More pertinently, Freeman’s ideal game plan to beat the Buckeyes coincides with proving the Irish strengths or quickly learning the season’s ceiling is nowhere near as high as the last five years.

Freeman opened his week preaching the importance of establishing the run, welcome words to any traditionalist’s ears. To limit the inevitable damage done by Ohio State’s receivers — junior Jaxon Smith-Njigba is widely considered the most dangerous receiver in the country after catching 96 passes for 1,606 yards last year — Notre Dame will want to shorten the game by establishing that run.

This is the exact approach Navy takes every year, though the Midshipmen’s triple-option attack obviously takes it to an extreme. When at a talent disadvantage, the fewer plays there are, the fewer opportunities there are for that disadvantage to be exploited.

“Offensively, you have to be able to take control of the game in terms of holding onto the football, in terms of establishing long drives,” Freeman said. “That’s going to be something we have to do if we want a chance at winning this game.

“You have to limit their offensive possessions. How do you do that? It’s not just defensively, it’s offensively, being able to establish long drives.”

Notre Dame has a somewhat proven commodity in junior running back Chris Tyree, but he has never been the type of back to rely on if looking to “establish long drives.” Enter Audric Estime.

The raves around the sophomore have gained plenty of steam this preseason. Logically, it is fair to wonder if they have gained too much. Tonight will lend some (in)credibility to them.

“He’s going to have more than 10 carries,” Irish running backs coach Deland McCullough said in mid-August. “I can guarantee you that.

“Audric has shown all the competencies and has been very proficient and consistent in everything you want from a high-level running back. Protections, running with speed, running with power, running with an elusiveness, catching the ball, he does everything you need him to do.”

Notre Dame needs Estime to average at least four yards a carry with at least 15-20 carries this weekend, preferably five yards per attempt on more than 20 rushes. Sophomore Logan Diggs may indeed be fully-cleared for contact after suffering a labrum tear in mid-April, but that should first be seen to be believed. Freshman Gi’Bran Payne looks like someone who will contribute this season, but perhaps not this weekend. The Irish have Tyree and Estime.

Freeman cited the common theme of establishing the run game in Ohio State’s two losses last year, to Oregon and Michigan. Indeed, they both broke 250 rushing yards and averaged more than seven yards per carry. Those may be lofty numbers for Notre Dame to reach tonight, particularly now that the Buckeyes have former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles calling their defense, but nearing 200 yards could keep the Irish in contention.

They ran for all of 42 yards against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl. Of course, Knowles has different personnel on hand and Ohio State has not spent years learning his offense — Freeman spent more time than expected insisting Knowles will have some changes in store for Notre Dame — but it should still be noted that the Irish essentially abandoned the run on New Year’s Day.

Only 19 true rushing attempts was more than Notre Dame attempted at Georgia in 2019, when the Irish openly gave up running the ball even before kickoff, but the Fiesta showing in Freeman’s coaching debut was still the opposite of what he is calling for this weekend.

The one thing Notre Dame did do in that 37-35 fall-from-ahead loss was get out to a strong start, scoring 28 points in the first half. Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees has shown adeptness in his opening script a few times, including last year’s opener at Florida State. A fast start tonight will force Buckeyes’ head coach Ryan Day to emphasize capitalizing on each possession, rather than risking a few deep shots and wasting a drive.

“Starting fast has been important for us since I became a head coach, and starting fast in the season has been important to us as we started fall camp,” Freeman said. “You can’t start slow against a team like Ohio State.”

If Notre Dame can cut the total possessions for each team down to single digits as well as score on its first one or two, then the Buckeyes will recognize no possession can be mismanaged. The margin for error will shrink, something that runs counter to the 17-point favorite’s edge.

ON Zeke Correll
For this approach to work, the Irish will need more than Estime’s physicality. Whether fifth-year left guard Jarrett Patterson plays or not — Freeman deemed the two-time captain “still questionable” with a foot sprain on Thursday — Notre Dame will lean on senior center Zeke Correll.

He may have lost his starting role at left guard halfway through last year, but back in 2020, Correll’s intangibles at center made him a coaching staff preference. Returning to that position, where he can best use what is often described as his “mauler” technique, should help Correll and the Irish.

“He’s shown the ability to make the correct decisions, the ability to execute his assignment vs. multiple different looks we’ve given him as he’s prepared for Ohio State,” Freeman said. “We have the utmost confidence in him. If we didn’t, he wouldn’t be out there with the starting group at center.”

Knowles may lack the individual playmakers of Ohio State’s years past or even from Oklahoma State’s defense last year, but he has some heralded recruits. Furthermore, he relishes disguising his defensive look presnap. Diagnosing and adjusting that will fall to Correll and sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner.

As steady as Buchner has been in every media availability and since being named Notre Dame’s starting quarterback a week into preseason practices, none of that will mean anything after kickoff tonight. All that will matter then is how he can handle that atmosphere.

Freeman can continue to preach about the dimensions of the football field (53 ⅓ yards by 120 yards) and how nothing “outside those white lines” matters during a game or should affect Buchner, but the Milan Miracle was more predicated on preparation and a game plan that shortened the game than it was on a fictional coach’s ploys in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Bobby Plump’s game-winning jumper is famous for a reason, and it was so long before Jimmy Chitwood came to the screen, but it is too often forgotten what preceded that buzzer beater. Plump spent four minutes of the fourth quarter holding the ball, a feat only Dean Smith would have enjoyed.

Norman Dale’s speech didn’t win the Indiana state championship. Marvin Wood’s preparation did. Thus Freeman’s constant worrying, even if he has slipped into a Gene Hackman impersonation a couple times the last few weeks.

“That to me is the focus, how do you make sure you can keep it contained and focus on the things that matter? That’s the preparation. Preparation is what matters. That’s what we can control from now until Saturday, how we prepare.”

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    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 rivals.com, 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.

    CAREER TO DATE
    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.

    NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
    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.

    QUOTES
    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.

    WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
    “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.”

    2023 OUTLOOK
    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.

    DOWN THE ROAD
    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.

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

    NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
    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

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    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.

    Rivals.com 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 rivals.com 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.

    NOTRE DAME on NBC 2023 SCHEDULE
    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 rivals.com. Michigan gave late pursuit to Bauman, but the New Jersey native stuck with the Irish, the only program he genuinely considered.

    CAREER TO DATE
    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.

    NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
    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.

    QUOTES
    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.”

    WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
    “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.”

    2023 OUTLOOK
    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.

    DOWN THE ROAD
    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.

    NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
    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