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Notre Dame 99-to-2: An early beginnning

Jordan Genmark Heath

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 26: Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath (2) receives congratulations from Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Asmar Bilal (22) after a defensive play during a non-conference game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8) and the Michigan Wolverines (19) on October 26, 2019 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is not an April Fool’s Day bit. If only we could all be so fortunate. Though Notre Dame’s first scheduled game is 151 days away, the current circumstances have prompted an early beginning for the annual offseason countdown through the roster. That said, if everything breaks right, if people behave, if science excels, if …, if …, if …, then the countdown could lead right into preseason practices as it usually does.

In that respect, working through every Irish player by descending jersey number may still serve as a countdown, but it is hard to count down to an unknown target date. And any beginning of football activities will remain unknown for the foreseeable future, at best.

Beginning the process now buys time. As said two weeks ago in a promise to you readers, “The summer staple of ‘Notre Dame 99-to-2’ might forgo its usual implicit countdown indication and instead become a spring-into-summer filler.” Labeling editorial content as filler is far from aspirational, but amidst chaos, it is necessary.

It will be necessary to begin tomorrow with more speculation around early-enrolled defensive lineman Rylie Mills’ role than expected. Without spring practices, the wonderings of his best immediate fit being at end or tackle will last until, well, hopefully no later than August but quite possibly much longer than that.

Thanks to Mills donning No. 99, the offseason series’ name does not need to change, working from him all the way to senior linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath’s No. 2.

It will be necessary to guess the jersey numbers of the nine freshmen yet to enroll, based on positional norms, current claimed numbers and high school numbers. Will tight end Michael Mayer end up wearing No. 87? Who knows, but in two weeks, we’ll pretend as if he will.

It will be necessary to realize both junior receiver Kevin Austin and senior running back Avery Davis were on the spring roster as wearing the No. 4. Two years ago, Davis was playing cornerback, so that duality was tolerable. Last season, Austin was silently suspended, removing any conflict. One of them will most likely change numbers before the 2020 debut, but for now, let’s look at that issue as a sign of the chaotic times, and hopefully by the time it matters in early July, football will be on the horizon and these details will be more trivial than ever.

Yes, the hope is Irish head coach Brian Kelly’s July 1 deadline for a normal season is met. Kelly did not mandate practices begin by July 1, but rather, that strength and conditioning work begin in earnest by no later than then to get teams into the shape necessary to be safe on the practice field. If that became reality, then actual practices could be occurring in mid-July, an amount equivalent to the usual preseason allotment plus the usual 15 spring practices.

Between the series of 85 player-by-player profiles and continuing the “30 Years of Notre Dame on NBC” series, we can keep busy until mid-July. Break things up with a few recruiting commitments, at least one inevitable transfer to get down to the NCAA maximum of 85 scholarships and various columns, and we’re getting close to August. Previewing each 2020 opponent could push the editorial calendar even further.

By that point, if everything breaks right, if people behave, if science excels, if …, if …, if …, then we should have a genuine idea of football’s outlook in 2020.

Let’s just hope that outlook involves kickoffs, ideally 12 of them.

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