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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception

Jonathan Doerer Clemson

Kicker Jonathan Doerer (39) hits a 24-yard field goal in the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium between No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 1 Clemson.

Notre Dame Athletics

Listed measurements: 6-foot-3, 197 pounds.2021-22 year, eligibility: Doerer can only return for the 2021 season due to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver, a decision he said was all-but-certain during last season and one he did not waver on once Notre Dame lost on New Year’s Day.
Depth Chart: Doerer will handle all of the Irish kicking duties unless some surprise develops. It would take a shockingly cold streak for his job to be in jeopardy.Recruiting: Doerer was a piece of Notre Dame’s late recruiting surge following its 2016 debacle. Along with fifth-year defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and former Irish star linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Doerer joined Notre Dame’s class in the closing days of the cycle, de-committing from Maryland in doing so.

Someday Senior Day plaudits will be skipped for players known to be returning for additional seasons, but that day did not come during the pandemic.

Doerer was once in position to challenge for, and quite possibly set, Irish records for field goal kicking accuracy. Then November and December of 2020 happened, when Doerer went 4-of-8 across four games (4-of-9 if including the Playoff).

On the flip side of that same conversation, the first week of November saw Doerer etch his name into Notre Dame lore, going 4-of-5 in the Irish double-overtime upset of No. 1 Clemson. Including that showing, he started the 2020 season 11-of-14, hardly an indicator that struggles were coming.

2017: Kickoff duties only, with as many problematic kicks as otherwise.2018: Made only field goal attempt, a 30-yarder, and 5-of-6 PATs.2019: 17-of-20 on field goals, including a 52-yarder, and 57-of-47 on PATs.2020: 15-of-23 on field goals, including a 51-yarder, and 48-of-48 on PATs.

That 110-of-111 on extra points should not be taken too much for granted, given it is ahead of Notre Dame’s record pace (104-of-105, Nick Setta, 2000-03) and could set Doerer on his way to setting the Irish record for most consecutive extra points made. Craig Hentrich currently holds that record, at 136, but Doerer is currently at 110 straight (yes, he missed his very first attempt, in spot-start duty for an injured Justin Yoon against Navy in 2018).

Attempting 4.2 per game across the last two seasons suggests Doerer could be on record watch in primetime against USC on Oct. 23.

The uncertainty of Doerer’s added season and its effect on the Irish scholarship count allowed some recruiting questions to linger well into the 2021 cycle. Once the NCAA confirmed Doerer would not count against Notre Dame’s limit in 2021, the Irish sprung on incoming freshman Josh Bryan, but special teams coordinator Brian Polian has no designs of a position competition.

“I don’t want to count on a freshman (for kicking),” he said during December’s signing period. “It’s not great. It’s hard to do. … In an ideal situation, you would like to have a guy on your campus for a year to hope to get them ready and get them prepared and help him to develop physically and get stronger. That allowed us to do that.

“... When we entered into the summer (of 2020), my assumption was that we were going to have to identify a kicker that could come in here and do it as a true freshman. So this is maybe one of the few instances where the circumstances of everything that was happening around us in the world might have helped us a little bit.”

Some fans may cringe at the explicit intention for Bryan to not challenge Doerer for a contributing role in 2021. Doerer’s late-season struggles in 2020 may have them still fretting a close game. A more normal year should help ease those concerns.

“I think Jon really was affected by the loss of the spring and part of the summer last year,” Polian said in mid-April. “There’s no doubt. He said as much. Physically, he didn’t feel like he did the year before.

“But look, we all dealt with it across the country and we got to battle through and I expect great things from Jon. I’m glad he’s back and I think he will have a terrific bonus year here exercising the COVID option and coming back. I’m really expecting big things from Jon.”

RELATED READING: Driving range: Notre Dame’s Doerer gets kick out of golf

The records do not much matter, though having one’s name atop Irish record books is a cool thing to brag to grandchildren about. For Doerer, 2021 will be marked more by field goal percentage than extra points.

Especially since by no means should kickoffs return as an issue, something that has not been the case since Doerer fine-tuned his mechanics following his freshman season.

He has never been a perfect kicker. A 23-of-23 year should not be expected. But before Doerer’s late 2020 swoon, he had made 29-of-35 field goals in his career, an 82.9 percent success rate. That should be his floor in this added season.

With Notre Dame’s offense a bit more uncertain in 2021, let’s boost his attempts count to 25. Making fewer than 21 of those would count as a disappointment. (Obviously, winds and length of attempts could change that.)

The Irish never discounted Doerer as an offensive weapon in 2021, but faith was shaken by the end of the season. Restoring that early could serve Notre Dame well in a grueling October stretch, including that matchup with the Trojans.

DOWN THE ROADDoerer does not have a massive leg, but it has, for the most part, been reliable. That should earn him an NFL look in 2022, even if one only in the summer.

Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter

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