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Badger weighing early return from Mormon mission

Chris Badger

With the Irish’s depth at safety a question mark for the second straight year, Chris Badger, a Notre Dame safety that chose his Mormon mission before ever playing a down for the Irish, could be back in South Bend earlier than expected.

Badger’s decision to walk away from the Irish after participating in spring practice left the Irish thin at safety, a position that saw Zeke Motta pressed into emergency time when Dan McCarthy and Jamoris Slaughter were injured last season. Badger, who had done good things in his limited time on campus, would’ve likely been thrown into the fire last season as well, had he not decided to go to Ecuador.

Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune reports that Badger and his family are looking for a dispensation that’ll allow Badger to return to South Bend and enroll in classes in January, allowing the safety to participate in spring practice next year.

More from Hamilton:

Badger, a Church of Latter Day Saints member, was rated a three-star recruit by He was an early enrollee freshman in 2010 and then opted to take his mission, starting in September 2010, before his college careerstarted in earnest.

Already, Rod Badger said his son received permission to return from Ecuador six months early -- his original return date was Aug. 31, 2012 -- so he could prepare for the 2012 season with the Irish. Now the family is looking for another dispensation to Badger can be on campus this winter.

“We live in ParkCity, Utah, and a member of the U.S. ski team serving a mission just came home last spring to prepare for the 2011-12 ski season,” Rod Badger said. “Similar scenario.”

Badger apparently has entertained no thoughts of returning anywhere else. (Though Rod Badger noted a new NCAA rule requiring missionaries who transfer to sit out a year.) If Badger does not receive permission to return in time for spring practice, his father said he will enroll at Notre Dame in June, as previously planned.

“Chris has expressed zero interest in returning to the Pac-12, from where most of his offers came,” Rod Badger said.

It’s hard to know what the Irish can expect from Badger, who has been away from football and has relied on protein shakes and personal workouts to keep his fitness levels up. At first glance, Badger doesn’t fit the mold of safety prospects Kelly and company have looked to bring in, as Badger is a six-foot, 190-pound safety that will never be a blazing runner.

That said, Badger was an early commitment to Jim Harbaugh and Stanford, had an offer from several Pac-12 schools like Oregon and Cal and even had an offer from Florida State before picking Notre Dame and enrolling early.

If Badger can get back in time for spring practice, he’ll get a chance to be thrown in the mix as a potential replacement for Harrison Smith, in a secondary that’ll be filled with promising options. Here’s a look at the proposed 2012 depth chart at safety:
2012 Potential Safety Depth Chart

Jamoris Slaughter, 5th year candidate
Dan McCarthy, 5th year candidate
Zeke Motta, Senior
Austin Collinsworth, Junior
Eilar Hardy, Sophomore
Chris Badger, Freshman
Nicky Baratti, Freshman
C.J. Prosise, Freshman
John Turner, Freshman

There’s no guarantee a guy like Dan McCarthy comes back for a fifth year if he doesn’t show he can break into the mix for playing time, battling Slaughter and Motta for time in the nickel. (That said, older brother Kyle McCarthy only started one game before his senior season before ultimately thriving in his fourth and fifth years on campus.) While it’s still a long time away, it’s interesting to see how quickly a position can go from perilously thin to nine-deep.