Of the 34 seniors Notre Dame has on its 2021 roster, only three of them — defensive lineman Kurt Hinish, kicker Jonathan Doerer and graduate transfer Cain Madden — do not have the choice to continue playing college football past the upcoming season.
Yep. Over 30 Irish players who are seniors by either school classification or on-field eligibility — or both — could keep putting on their golden helmets in 2022. Many of them have the opportunity to play beyond then, too.
Notre Dame has 12 players, excluding Hinish and Doerer, who fit into both categories — seniors by school classification and eligibility. Should those dozen players take the NCAA up on the extra year presented to them by the NCAA to make up for the abnormalities of the 2020 pandemic-affected season, then they’d become what Hinish and Doerer are now: “super seniors.”
Hinish and Doerer do not count against Notre Dame’s limit of 85 scholarship players, but that is expected to change for super seniors starting next season. The Irish coaching staff is not obligated to fulfill any of the potential 12 super seniors’ wishes to return for the extra year because of how inflated the roster would get if they all said they’d like to give it one more go.
Below is a ranking of Notre Dame’s potential 2022 super seniors in order from who is most likely to return to South Bend next season to who is least likely to suit up in blue and gold again. This list does not include players who are seniors by school classification but juniors by eligibility. It only includes seniors or graduate seniors by eligibility who are able to return for the 2022 season.
1. Linebacker Bo Bauer
Bauer has never missed a game in three seasons. He also never started a game. It’s been an interesting career for the Harborcreek, Pennsylvania, native. He hasn’t done enough to appear on NFL Draft boards, but he’s done plenty to be of use at Notre Dame.
That’ll likely remain the case for another season with fifth-year senior Drew White slated to continue starting over Bauer at mike linebacker. If White, who will be highlighted later in this article, plays his way into NFL Draft consideration, then Bauer could finally have the spotlight at mike all to himself as a super senior.
2. Safety Houston Griffith
Griffith appears to have emerged as the starting stud safety. He has had an impressive spring by coaches’ accounts and is poised for an impressive senior season. Impressive enough to make himself an NFL Draft choice, though? Probably not.
The one thing to keep in mind about Griffith is that he entered the transfer portal earlier this year only to return to South Bend. If he does choose to make use of his free year of eligibility, it could be elsewhere if he does not have the season at Notre Dame his coaches think he could. If he makes strides and thinks he could be elite in 2022, however, it could be worth it for him to stay for another year at Notre Dame.
3. Wide Receiver Avery Davis
Here’s the first fifth-year senior on the list. Davis was on Notre Dame’s roster in 2017 and could suit up for the Irish in 2022. That’s what a redshirt season plus an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA can do for you.
Davis might need the extra reps more than anyone else. He was a heralded quarterback out of North Texas in high school. He redshirted in 2017. He spent the 2018 season at Notre Dame as a running back. Then he was a cornerback during 2019 fall camp before moving to wide receiver.
The 2020 calendar year was his first full one as a wideout, and he didn’t even get to hone his craft during spring practices. They were canceled because of the pandemic. Davis could have a breakout season in the slot this fall, but it’s possible he needs one more full year as a wide receiver to have a real shot at the next level.
4. Linebacker Isaiah Pryor
Pryor is another fifth-year senior with two years of eligibility left, but he acquired those in a fashion much different than Davis. Unlike Davis, who was used solely on Notre Dame’s scout team in 2017, Pryor played in 14 games for Ohio State that year. He played in 13 and started seven for the Buckeyes in 2018.
Pryor’s redshirt year came in 2019 when he played in four games before transferring to Notre Dame. He played in all 12 games for the Irish last season but did not start in any and was mostly a special teams participant.
Pryor needs to find his identity. Is he a safety? Is he a linebacker? How much can he consistently contribute? He might need two more seasons to answer those questions.
5. Defensive Tackle Jayson Ademilola
It would be one heck of a win if Notre Dame had Ademilola around in 2022. It’s not totally out of the realm of possibilities. The 6-3, 279-pound tackle played 224 snaps last season as a reserve. He also battled a knee injury. He needs to build more of a resume to have a chance at progressing to the next level.
That resume could take on plenty of new bullet points this year. Ademilola is primed to start. His snap count could double, and his attention from NFL scouts could increase immensely too. If that happens, he could easily be gone in January. But if he needs one more year, he’s got that in his back pocket too.
6. Cornerback Tariq Bracy
Perhaps no Irish player had a more up and down 2020 season than Bracy. He scattered five starts among nine games played. He missed the Pittsburgh game and did not play in either the ACC Championship against Clemson or the College Football Playoff against Alabama.
It’s obvious Bracy has not yet built total trust from the Notre Dame coaching staff. He’s fighting an uphill battle with the emergence of sophomore Clarence Lewis at field corner, too. If Lewis takes command of the position, Bracy could elect to use his extra year of eligibility elsewhere and transfer. This is the part of the list where it gets far less likely for players to return.
7. Linebacker Shayne Simon
Simon made a play in Notre Dame’s Blue-Gold Game that should have NFL scouts salivating. Simon has long been steady against the run. But when he lined up across from junior running back Kyren Williams in the slot, diagnosed an out route and stepped in front of the pass to make an interception, he showed a flash that could make him the total package at will linebacker.
Simon and junior Marist Liufau split time at buck linebacker last season. If Simon regains control of the position battle with Liufau, just a junior, and makes impressive plays against the run and pass, the 6-3, 230-pound linebacker could emerge as a serious NFL Draft prospect. That’d make the odds of him returning to South Bend slim.
8. Linebacker Drew White
By the end of 2021, White will have done just about all he can at Notre Dame. He’s set for his third year as a starter at mike linebacker. He has totaled 137 tackles, 17 for a loss, in his first two seasons as a starter.
It’s almost a given White will be a team captain. He’ll likely fight junior safety Kyle Hamilton for the team lead in tackles too. What more can he do? White will likely leave South Bend at the end of the year, especially if NFL scouts take notice of what he’s accomplished at Notre Dame.
9. Defensive End Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa
If Tagovailoa-Amosa proves he can be even more of a productive pass rusher on the edge as he was from the interior, then he’s almost certainly gone to the NFL. The league has plenty of room for a 6-2 1/2, 282-pound versatile defensive lineman who can move the line in the middle and get around it on the perimeter.
10. Offensive Lineman Josh Lugg
Notre Dame might have three upperclassmen NFL Draft prospects from the offensive line, and Lugg is certainly one of them. Like with Tagovailoa-Amosa at his respective position, the NFL has plenty of suitors for a 6-7, 310-pound tackle. All Lugg has to do is prove capable of staying healthy and properly protecting Notre Dame graduate transfer quarterback Jack Coan and he’ll be off to the league.
11. Quarterback Jack Coan
Speaking of Coan, he came to Notre Dame from Wisconsin for one reason: to start for the Irish in 2021. Notre Dame does not need him beyond then with sophomore quarterback Drew Pyne and true freshman Tyler Buchner fighting to see the field. Don’t forget about junior Brendan Clark who could enter the conversation if healthy.
If all goes to plan for Coan, he’ll start every game for Notre Dame this fall and do enough to move up NFL Draft boards in a quarterback class that is not very deep. He’s got one season to shine in South Bend.
12. Long-snapper Axel Raarup
If you’re asking who Raarup is, you’re not alone. Notre Dame’s biography for the Mendota Heights (Minn.) Saint Thomas Academy product is the following: “Made collegiate debut against Bowling Green (2019).” That’s it. Raarup, the Irish’s third-string long-snapper, got to wear the blue and gold for four years. It’s not likely he’ll get to wear it for a fifth.
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