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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Georgia Tech at Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 20: Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Kevin Bauman (84) runs with the football during a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on November 20, 2021 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-4 ½, 242 pounds.2022-23 year, eligibility: A junior, Bauman has three seasons of eligibility remaining. If he had been shelved for one more game with his broken leg in 2021, that would be four seasons, but he appeared in four games after the injury flared up in the season opener, making for five total.Depth Chart: Bauman may have been the No. 2 tight end for Notre Dame this spring if not for that broken leg, but even that hardly slowed him. He is either the No. 3 tight end behind junior Michael Mayer and sophomore Mitchell Evans or behind only Mayer.Recruiting: The No. 5 tight end in the class of 2020, per, the New Jersey native withstood a charge from Michigan to choose the Irish.

Who will be the first athlete to strike a deal with a hospital or a surgeon following an injury? Perhaps it will be a cheap deal, as a thank you for the good care. Perhaps it will be a deal at proper market value, the medical side of it simply banking on its work earning some kudos. Either way, Bauman being able to get back on the field only two months after breaking his leg in practice would have been a ripe opportunity.

Bauman recovered from the broken leg in time to see action in three of Notre Dame’s four November games, as well as the bowl game last season. That came after playing in four games in 2020, making a single catch in both years.

2020: 4 games, 1 catch for five yards.2021: 5 games, 1 catch for 10 yards.

There is an instinct to think Bauman’s leg injury could hold him back beyond last season, even though he returned for November action and the bowl practices. He would dispute that thinking.

“I feel great, 100 percent,” Bauman said in mid-April. “Obviously last year with the injury was tough, but we have a great training staff, so I was able to get with them. I feel back to better than I was before, so I feel great. I felt great this spring, just keeping on top of that rehab has been huge for me, so now I feel great.”

In some respect, Bauman had a chance to improve his game in a mature way from the sideline.

“I took that opportunity, not being able to do things physically, to work more on the mental side of things,” he said. “... Although I wasn’t able to physically be on the field, I was taking those reps. Watching the film, taking those mental reps and once I got back on the field, I could feel all that come to fruition. Made a world of difference, just taking those mental reps and seeing it translate onto the field in a physical way was big for me.”

“Any Notre Dame tight end conversation for the next two years begins with a focus on Mayer. Not to sound like a broken record, but he is that good. Barring injury, Bauman will not have an opportunity to be thee tight end at ‘Tight End U’ until Mayer enters the 2023 NFL draft.

“He will, however, have an opportunity to be the supporting tight end once (George) Takacs departs, presumably after 2021, if Bauman does not take hold of that gig this season. The further players get from high school, the less weight their recruiting rankings should carry, but Bauman was sought as a typical Irish tight end star. He was higher rated than either of the early-enrolled freshman tight ends looking to leapfrog him in the depth chart, Cane Berrong and Mitchell Evans.

“Bauman will have an impact at Notre Dame. But due to Mayer, the ‘When?’ of that could be truly down the road.”

Bauman or Evans, one will be Mayer’s backup, and the other will be a piece of the offense, always just one snap away from being a core piece of it. Though a former high school quarterback, Evans’ 2021 may have given him the slight edge over the former highly-touted tight end recruit Bauman.

The key thing to remember is, no matter the pecking order of tight ends Nos. 2 and 3, they will remain behind a likely All-American who will be both the fulcrum and the engine of the Irish offense.

There should still be a role for Bauman, be it as the No. 2 or 3 tight end. A handful of catches is likely the minimum, with one perhaps coming in the end zone.

That “2022 Outlook” is not meant to diminish Bauman. Any tight end at Notre Dame warrants the benefit of the doubt, simply because of the track record of “Tight End U.” It is meant to continue to emphasize Mayer’s talent and how it looms over the rest of the tight ends.

He’ll be gone after this season.

Then it will be Bauman’s time, along with Evans and sophomore Cane Berrong, not to mention the two incoming freshmen. Who will emerge as the new lead is a parlor game better suited for next winter, but its best clues will come this fall.

RELATED READING: Kevin Bauman, moved by Eifert’s words, surges back into ND’s tight end mix

From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end

No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 89 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American

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