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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 52 Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore

Listed Measurements: 6-foot-2 ¾, 230 pounds.2019-20 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Bauer has three seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.Depth chart: The utter lack of clarity in the linebacker pecking order includes Bauer. For these purposes, Bauer fits in third at Mike linebacker behind, in some order, fifth-year Asmar Bilal and sophomore Shayne Simon. Once August arrives, though, all three will have a chance to impress, a genuine chance considering how in flux the position is as a whole.Recruiting: A four-star prospect and the No. 5 inside linebacker in the country, per, Bauer chose Notre Dame over offers from Michigan State, Penn State and Vanderbilt. Given how notable a recruit he was, Bauer’s commitment 18 months ahead of his expected signing put a damper on the potential drama of the process.

Bauer turned his early enrollment into a consistent special teams role, managing 10 tackles last season, appearing in all 13 games.

As this series only just starts to reach the linebackers (a stretch that will include nine of the next 15 entries), a common theme will soon emerge. Simply put, the Irish do not know who or what they have at linebacker. While Bilal will likely start on Labor Day (87 days) along with juniors Jordan Genmark Heath at Buck and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at Rover, that is far from certain and the depth beyond them is even more unknown.

That wondering was a prime feature in the spring, too.

“I need to get those guys into real live inside drill work,” head coach Brian Kelly said in March. “We’re mixing and matching, who looks good with who, what’s a good tandem. Is it Bilal with Genmark Heath? Is it Bauer with Bilal? We’re not really even married to a particular Mike and Will combination, either. That’s kind of the process right now.”

“At the least, getting Bauer a handful of snaps in a half dozen games will serve to get his feet wet, at least as much as can be expected when playing behind the likes of (Te’von) Coney. His abilities fitting gaps against the run will assure him of a few tackles.”

Bauer never quite got those competitive snaps last season, in part because Coney hardly came off the field and in part because now-senior Jonathan Jones remained ahead of Bauer on the depth chart. Projecting Bauer’s 2019 is an even more difficult task, though not because of Jones.

If Bauer ends up on the third-string with both Bilal and Simon devoted to the Mike position, finding him opportunities will be difficult. Bilal brings Bauer’s physicality; Simon has the best agility, better suiting him to coverage, an area in which Bauer has struggled. No specific situation would cater to Bauer unless his combination of physical assets makes him the overall preference to either his positional competitors.

If Bauer moves ahead of either Bilal or Simon, though, he could quickly move into a more prominent role given Notre Dame will likely put a short leash on the starting linebackers until some consistency is found. That could play into Bauer’s favor, with or without a surge in the preseason.

For thoroughness’ sake, let’s quickly acknowledge Bauer will almost assuredly be involved in special teams coverage once again. Those duties get summarized quickly, arguably abruptly, when discussing anyone but a freshman, but they are vital to the game as a whole, nonetheless.

However the linebackers sort out this season, including wherever Bauer lands, will inform what comes next. Sure, that’s obvious, but it is more true than usual. Bilal is the only likely contributor about to run out of eligibility, and of the names mentioned above, only Genmark Heath has just two years remaining. The rest will be around for a while yet.

That includes Bauer’s classmates Jack Lamb and Paul Moala, both probable backups this fall. That is all to say, if Bauer does not break through this fall, it will begin to be a question of if he will. He cannot easily move to another position and find better odds.

If he does manage to make a contribution at Mike in 2019, he will have a solid chance at staying there, given the aforementioned expiration of Bilal’s eligibility.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee