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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 65 Michael Vinson, sixth-year long snapper, four-year starter

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 23 Notre Dame Spring Game

SOUTH BEND, IN - APRIL 23: Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman laughs with long snapper Michael Vinson (65) during the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring Football Game on April 23, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Listed measurements: 6-foot-2, 235 pounds.
2023-24 year, eligibility: A sixth-year veteran, this will be Vinson’s final season of eligibility.
Depth Chart: Vinson will be Notre Dame’s starting long snapper for a fourth straight season, backed up by preferred walk-on Rino Monteforte.Recruiting: Vinson turned down a scholarship at Army and preferred walk-on paths at both Mississippi State and Northwestern. Instead, he took the longer walk-on route with the Irish, eventually earning a scholarship following the 2021 season.

Initially, Vinson prolonging his career for a sixth season was a surprise, simply because tracking more than five years of eligibility can be confounding.

Not playing as a freshman in 2018 can be chalked up as his prototypical eligibility-preserving season. Vinson thus burned a year with two appearances in 2019, but the universal pandemic eligibility waiver effectively gave back that year in 2020. Playing in every game in 2021 and 2022 served as using his second and third seasons of eligibility.

He will end his Notre Dame career with four years of starting duty, rather wild considering Vinson played just two games in his first two seasons. He should end up with 53 career appearances.

A generic question for Vinson in early April began by blandly saying, “You’ve been in this program for a long time,” to which Vinson cut the reporter short.

“Long time,” Vinson reiterated.

Nicknamed “Milk,” Vinson landing access to the 2022 Indianapolis 500 remains one of the single-best uses of NIL rights.

“Not much has changed from last year’s projection. Vinson has not been noticed during a game in two years as a starter. All Notre Dame really wants from him is for that streak to reach three full seasons.

“Long snappers are a lot like pilot lights; you only think of them when the wind has blown something awry.

“Maybe that’s a forced analogy, but any analysis of a long snapper is forced. Unless he is picking a fight just before the halftime whistle, the job is rather straightforward.

“Vinson has handled that job well for a couple years now.

“Could he be named a captain in 2022? It is not outlandish, only because he was in charge of one of the winter conditioning groups, always a subset of likely captains, but with two captains returning in fifth-year center Jarrett Patterson and sixth-year receiver Avery Davis — not that either is necessarily guaranteed that status for a second season, though it seems rather likely — there will be only a few other slots afloat. Vinson is not likely one of those two or three names.”

There was little expectation of Vinson returning in 2023 for two reasons. One, it was somewhat a surprise when he approached then-new Irish head coach Marcus Freeman about a fifth season before the 2021 Fiesta Bowl. Freeman responded with a scholarship. Two, Notre Dame had a scholarship long snapper on the roster in Alex Peitsch, who had been long expected to take over the duties. In fact, Peitsch looked like the lead long snapper when he arrived in South Bend in 2020.

But that was right when Vinson found his groove.

Peitsch transferred this winter, removing the difficult scholarship math of keeping two long snappers among the allotted 85 scholarships.

Little else needs to be considered about Vinson in 2023. He has been thoroughly reliable for the Irish thus far. He should continue to be.

Vinson bluntly spoke of NFL aspirations this spring, citing that as one of the primary reasons for coming back for a sixth season. It will be a tough task. There are fewer NFL-caliber long snappers than any other position.

“Making it as a snapper is so tough,” Vinson said. “There are only 32 jobs in the entire world. It’s 32 of the best of the best. To have an opportunity to even get on a team would be unbelievable.”

The continued on- and off-field struggles of the XFL and USFL underscores the shallow pool of professional football talent in the world. There is not enough to keep the nascent leagues compelling. But if there is one noble reason for them to persist, it would be to give Vinson another season or two on this unexpected journey.

The summer countdown begins anew, Rylie Mills to Deion Colzie
No. 99 Rylie Mills, senior defensive tackle, moving back inside from end
No. 98 Devan Houstan, early-enrolled four-star defensive tackle
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, junior defensive tackle, one of three Irish DTs with notable experience
No. 95 Tyson Ford, sophomore defensive tackle, up 30 pounds from a year ago
No. 93 Armel Mukam, incoming freshman defensive end, former Stanford commit
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a senior defensive tackle now ‘fully healthy’ after a 2022 torn ACL
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, sophomore defensive end, former four-star recruit
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, the next starter at ‘TE U’
No. 87 Cooper Flanagan, incoming freshman tight end, four-star recruit
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, senior tight end coming off a torn ACL
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, junior receiver, probable No. 1 target in 2023
No. 79 Tosh Baker, senior tackle, again a backup but next year ...
No. 78 Pat Coogan, junior interior offensive lineman
No. 77 Ty Chan, sophomore offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, first-team All-American left tackle
No. 75 Sullivan Absher, incoming freshman offensive lineman
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, sophomore left guard, likely starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, fifth-year right guard, likely starter
No. 72 Sam Pendelton, early-enrolled freshman offensive lineman
No. 70 Ashton Craig, sophomore interior offensive lineman
No. 68 Michael Carmody, senior offensive lineman
No. 56 Charles Jagusah, incoming freshman offensive lineman, four-star recruit
No. 55 Chris Terek, incoming freshman offensive lineman, four-star recruit
No. 51 Boubacar Traore, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 17 Brenan Vernon, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 13 Holden Staes, sophomore tight end, up 20 pounds in a year
No. 12 Penn State RB transfer Devyn Ford gives Notre Dame newly-needed backfield depth, experience
No. 4 Rhode Island transfer safety Antonio Carter gives Notre Dame desperately needed backline depth

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