The NCAA’s decision to allow anyone who plays this fall essentially a free year of eligibility looks like it could have some immediate benefits for Notre Dame. Senior placekicker Jonathan Doerer told reporters on Tuesday that he plans on coming back to Notre Dame for a 5th year he wouldn’t have had without the NCAA’s ruling earlier this year.
Doerer’s career got off to a rough start during his first two seasons, so much so that there was some thought that he might lose out the placekicking battle to walkon Harrison Leonard in the summer of 2019. Doerer flipped the script and became a weapon for the Irish, hitting 17 of 20 field-goal attempts last fall, including both attempts over 50 yards.
This season, Doerer is 3 of 4 on field goals and a perfect 9 of 9 on extra points. After missing the first PAT attempt of his career in 2018, he’s connected on his last 71 in a row.
Without the NCAA granting a free year of eligibility, Doerer would have exhausted his eligibility at the end of the year. Now though, Doerer can return in 2021 for a 5th year giving Notre Dame one of college football’s best kickers for another year and crossing one significant need for 2021 off Notre Dame’s off-season to-do list.
There had been some chatter that Notre Dame might offer a kicker for the class of 2021, but a return of Doerer next year might make that unnecessary allowing Notre Dame to preserve a scholarship for another position.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out with players returning next year that usually wouldn’t have the eligibility to do so. Brian Kelly has brought up the topic a few times of how scholarship counts will work in 2021 with potentially an influx of players wanting to come back in 2021 on top of already full 2021 recruiting classes.