Another unique Senior Day is upon us this weekend for Notre Dame football. Thanks to the free year of eligibility in 2020 during the COVID season, it’s not as simple as looking at who has fifth-year eligibility this year in determining who we may or may not be seeing for the last time. In this case, some players have sixth-year eligibility. There are even numerous seniors who could either play their final home game at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday or still have two years of eligibility remaining to play at Notre Dame. So I figured I’d break them all down.
Remember, unlike in 2021, when “super seniors” didn’t count towards the 85 limits, they will in 2022. So, even if Notre Dame wanted to bring back every player with additional eligibility, they couldn’t. A lot of conservations have likely already taken place between the players and staff regarding who might return, but none of us know who has or hasn’t had those talks.
Notre Dame should still be able to welcome back a lot of these players. The Irish have 57 players in the freshmen, sophomore, and junior classes, though a few juniors are likely to leave for the NFL. The Irish also have 22 commitments for the class of 2022, with hopefully a few more additions. If you figure Notre Dame’s class of 2022 ends up at 25, that would put the Irish at 82. But, factor in yearly roster attrition plus NFL departures, and Notre Dame will have plenty of room. Reminder: the scholarship limits always work themselves out even when it looks like the Irish will be well over 85.
No Eligibility Beyond 2021
Only four players will be completely exhausting their eligibility on Saturday – two of whom started their careers elsewhere and two Notre Dame players who took advantage of a free COVID year in 2021.
Jack Coan – The Wisconsin transfer has been solid this year in guiding Notre Dame to a 9-1 record. He hasn’t been an elite player, but he’s been solid after a rough patch that saw him get benched twice.
Jonathan Doerer – He’s made some huge kicks for Notre Dame this year with game-winners on the road at Florida State and Virginia Tech. He bounced back from a 65% season by hitting just over 75%. Freshman Josh Bryan figures to step into the role next year.
Kurt Hinish – Notre Dame’s super senior NT has played more games than any other player in Notre Dame football history. He missed time this year but played his best game in an Irish uniform two weeks ago. Jacob Lacey is the likely replacement for Hinish in 2022.
Cain Madden – The Marshall transfer had a rough start to his single-season at Notre Dame, but like the rest of the offensive line, he has settled into his role and looked much more like the 2nd team All-American he was a year ago. Freshman Rocco Spindler will battle for Madden’s vacated starting spot in 2022.
1 Year of Eligibility in 2022
Six different players have one year of eligibility remaining. Again, we won’t speculate on any potential graduate transfers, but suffice to say, there will be some players in this group and the next who ultimately enter the portal if a defined role – or an NFL future – isn’t in their immediate future.
Avery Davis – After tearing his ACL against Navy, a 6th year is on the table for Notre Dame’s slot receiver. Should he return, he’d figure to start again in 2022, assuming a full recovery from the injury. He was a model captain in 2021 and one of the easiest players in the world to cheer for, given how he handled numerous position changes.
Bo Bauer – Has started to emerge over the last few weeks with impressive play. He’s even been good in coverage which used to be his Achilles heel. If he were open to another timeshare at MIKE in 2022, he’d be a welcomed addition.
Shayne Simon – Had he not gotten injured in the opener, he would have played a significant role this year after starting most of the 2020 season. However, if he returns, he’ll likely have an uphill battle for a starting spot.
Josh Lugg – He could return for a 6rh year since he redshirted in 2017, but if he did, he would likely have to battle with either Joe Alt or Blake Fisher for a starting role.
Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa – It took some convincing for Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa to return in 2021 for a 5th year, but it’s not clear how much he would be able to improve his stock by coming back. A 6th year is available because MTA missed most of the 2018 season due to injury.
Jayson Ademilola – As a first-time starter this year, he flashed and was downright dominant at times. He’d have a great chance to improve his draft stock if he returned for a 5th year in 2022. If he left now, he would likely be just a day-three pick. However, if he came back and built on his 2021 campaign, he could play his way into a day one or two selection.
Isaiah Pryor – He’s only played in a reserve role in his two years at Notre Dame, and it’s tough to see more than a reserve/special teams role for him in 2022 if he returns with the emergence of the young safeties.
Tariq Bracy – He’s had a very up and down career but has been playing better in recent weeks. Notre Dame has a lot of young talent in the underclasses in the secondary, but Bracy would likely be the nickel in 2022 if he returned.
2 Years of Eligibility thru 2023
Notre Dame has 11 different players who are seniors class-wise but still have two years of eligibility due to redshirt seasons plus the free COVID year in 2020. This group will be fascinating to see who returns and who doesn’t.
Kevin Austin – Had he had a monster season this year, he likely would be off to the NFL, but he’s been a bit up and down. If he left now, he’s likely a late-day-three pick or undrafted free agent. However, if he returns and is the lead receiver in what could be a dynamic Notre Dame offense, he’ll be drafted much higher.
Justin Ademilola – He’s split reps with Isaiah Foskey at VYPER this year and played well. If Foskey were to leave early for the NFL, a return would seem like a no-brainer. However, even if Foskey returns, he would have a role in 2022 if he returns.
Braden Lenzy – I expected a much bigger season from Lenzy. It was clear Notre Dame wanted his deep game to be a focal point of the offense early on, but he and Coan just couldn’t ever connect on one. His 20 receptions this year are a career-high but still lower than most expected heading into the season.
DJ Brown – Brown is currently tied for the team lead in interceptions and is developing a reputation for being in the right place at the right time. After a rough start to the season in Tallahassee, he’s settled in well.
Joe Wilkins – Had he stayed healthy this year, he likely would have had a prominent role. All Wilkins ever has done when he got opportunities was catch the football.
Paul Moala – Injuries robbed Moala of another season in 2021. He’s now had multiple major injuries in back-to-back seasons. Notre Dame could have used him in 2021, given all the injuries in the linebacker room. Linebacker gets a lot more crowded next year with the four backers coming in, so his decision will be interesting.
C’bo Flemister – Flemister wasn’t available for the first few weeks of the year and hasn’t appeared much since he became available. Brian Kelly has been vague when discussing Flemister’s status at times this year. He’s had just three attempts this season after running for ten touchdowns in 2019 and 2020 combined.
Jarrett Patterson – Patterson will have a decision to make after the season concerning the NFL. Heading into the season, most felt it was a forgone conclusion that Patterson would be heading to the NFL, but his season hasn’t gone quite as well as most thought it would, and his draft stock isn’t as high as it could be at the moment.
John Dirksen – Given the challenges Notre Dame had on the offensive line this year without trying Dirksen in the lineup, it’s tough to see a significant role for Dirksen in 2022. He would have an opportunity to challenge Spindler for a starting gig, though.
George Takacs – Takacs has been a fine blocking tight end for the Irish but not a huge factor in the passing game. With Michael Mayer back for another year and the emergence of Mitchell Evans and surging recruit Eli Raridon coming in, reps might be tough to come by for Takacs without injuries as we saw in 2021 to Kevin Bauman and Cane Berrong.