Notre Dame Football Spring ’24 Position Breakdown: Special Teams

Departures of impactful players like Spencer Shrader and Chris Tyree, arrivals of new talents like Mitch Jeter, and the evolving roles of returning players.

During the 2023 season, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish special teams unit had its moments, including scoring on both a kickoff and punt return. However, the offseason has brought with it major changes, leading to increased interest in how this department takes shape for the upcoming campaign. Spring ball should help address at least some of the holes that were created on the depth chart, though changes along the way are seemingly inevitable.


Spencer Shrader was here for just one season after entering through the transfer portal by way of South Florida. In that short amount of time, he made his presence felt with a booming leg that put his name in the record books. First, he delivered the longest field goal in school history with a 54-yard boot against North Carolina State. Then, in the loss at Louisville, he added a pair of three-pointers of over 50 yards in the Louisville loss, a first for that distance within the same contest.

Chris Tyree decided to transfer and wound up at Virginia after a strong overall year that included an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown in the rout of Pittsburgh. That single scoring run did skew his overall number in this particular category, with his other 10 runs only managing 3.7 yards per effort. Surpassing that total wouldn’t appear to be a challenge, though the Irish coverage teams will help to provide the ultimate answer.

To a lesser extent, the absence of Matt Salerno from this group isn’t likely to serve as a serious blow. That’s because he only contributed a pair of punt returns for 21 yards last season, a 10.5 average that was the highest of his Notre Dame career. The Salerno name may not disappear from this unit in 2024, with brother Chris serving as a backup kicker.


The changeover to a new transfer kicker is something that’s taken place every season under head coach Marcus Freeman. This approach continues this year with former South Carolina kicker Mitch Jeter set to replace Shrader. Jeter’s accuracy outweighs the leg strength possessed by his predecessor. However, Jeter can also get plenty of leg on the ball and hasn’t missed in 21 tries of under 50 yards the past two seasons. He’s also been solid when it comes to kickoffs, delivering touchbacks at a higher rate than either Shrader or returnee Zac Yoakam.

A Look Back and Ahead

Punting shouldn’t be a concern this season, with Bryce McFerson back for another year. In 2023, he averaged 45.1 on his 38 boots, with 13 of those going for 50 yards or more and 10 ending with fair catches. On five occasions, he managed to plant the ball inside an opponent’s 20-yard line, with only two of his efforts resulting in touchbacks.

Returning kickoffs was a task that a trio of running backs did last season. Jadarian Price, Jeremiyah Love and Gi’Bran Payne combined to bring out 14 kicks, with Price handling 10 of those efforts and returning one for a 99-yard score against Southern Cal. Each of the three averaged in the neighborhood of 20 to 25 yards outside of that gamebreaker.

Price and Love are currently listed again among this group, along with Devyn Ford. One major change that could elevate Ford to the top spot is that Price and Love should see much more activity in the running game, given the departure of Audric Estime. Ford suffered a concussion last year during his time on special teams, ending the year with 125 yards on seven returns.

Punt returns could have a similar dynamic, since the expected main return man, Jordan Faison, could become a major aspect of the passing attack. Faison, whose modest numbers on punts last season witnessed him collecting 28 yards on two returns, is certainly capable of taking on double duty. However, Freeman may not want to run the risk of wearing him out. If that’s the case, either Jaden Greathouse or Jaden Mickey may be the players to watch.

The 2023 performance of Notre Dame’s special teams unit was an upgrade from the year before, so improving on that effort may prove to be a tough task. Enough talent remains to offer at least the potential for a similar performance. Yet the players in line to contribute here may have busier duties elsewhere, which may require some players to step up.

One interesting player who could conceivably have an impact at some point this season isn’t taking part in spring sessions. Max Hurleman only made his decision to transfer from Colgate earlier in March and is joining the team as a walk-on. During his time with the Red Raiders, he was a running back who was an effective option in passing situations. His return yardage on five kickoffs was average at best, so whether his addition has any relevance to the return game is a question waiting to be answered.

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