Notre Dame Football Spring ’24 Position Breakdown: Tight End

The tight end position has been one that’s seen the Notre Dame Fighting Irish develop one skilled performer after another. The byproduct of those efforts has been watching many of them advance to the NFL. For the 2024 spring sessions, there will be a pair of injury-related absences among this particular group, though plenty of talent will still be on display.


Holden Staes’ freshman season in 2022 saw him make a single catch for 11 yards against BYU. Last season, he appeared to be expanding his repertoire considerably with 15 catches for 176 yards and one score. That was highlighted by a four-reception, 128-yard day at North Carolina State in which he found the end zone two times.

Staes became even more important after Mitchell Evans was lost for the season because of injury. Yet, when the regular season concluded, he entered the transfer portal and later found a new home at Tennessee. The apparent clear path to a starting role with the Volunteers was reportedly a key part of his decision. Despite his absence from the lineup, the Irish should be able to still manage to deliver at this position.


That assessment is because Notre Dame’s depth, especially when Evans and Kevin Bauman return, will remain formidable. One new face in the spring will be early enrollee Jack Larsen, whose performance on the field during this period may not be the most pivotal part of his development.

That’s because Larsen bulking up his relatively thin frame is vital at a position that requires blocking skills against much bigger players. He also needs to develop his route-running skills but he’s a smart player who should be able to absorb his instruction. One area in which he already excels is the ability to haul in grabs, with the only question being how often he’ll be called upon in that department.

A Look Back and Ahead

Last season, the Irish had the unenviable task of trying to replace Michael Mayer, who had been a fixture in the lineup for four seasons. That search at first put Staes in prime position to handle the top spot before Evans opened plenty of eyes with a series of strong efforts.

Prior to last season, Evans being in Mayer’s shadow helped limit him to just five catches during his first two years. In Week Three last year, he caught four against Tennessee State and then really showed his worth with his seven grabs in the heartbreaking defeat to Ohio State. He upped that over the next two weeks with a total of 10 receptions for 205 yards and one touchdown.

After a relatively quiet week in the rout of Southern Cal, Evans’ season came to a halt when he tore an ACL after five catches against Pittsburgh. That continued recovery is why he’s not part of the action this spring. However, that protective approach is meant to offer hope for a full recovery once the Irish fall training camp gets underway.

Joining Evans on the sidelines this spring is hard-luck Kevin Bauman, who’s missed the past two seasons because of a pair of ACL injuries. That fragility is why anything that Bauman can offer this year will be an asset.

Among those battling it out at the position this spring is Eli Raridon, who knows all too well the pain of an ACL tear. He tore the same one twice in a 10-month span and was brought along slowly last year. He caught all five of his pass receptions in the Irish’s final three contests, which is hopefully a precursor to a greater season-long output this year.

Cooper Flanagan could conceivably step into the current void, though his true value may end up being more on the blocking front. His high school production was limited somewhat by the fact that the team’s offense focused strongly on the run though he still managed to lead his team in receptions. A remodeled Notre Dame running game’s ability to thrive could end up depending on Flanagan’s blocking abilities.

Much like Bauman, any production that Davis Sherwood can offer at tight end will be gladly accepted. The former walk-on began his Notre Dame career as a linebacker before shifting to tight end, where caught his first two passes last season, including one for a touchdown. He’s likely to be seen more on special teams but will add to the team’s depth.

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