Notre Dame’s Senior Day to be a snowy, festive honor, but not a definitive choice
It will be a picture-esque moment, snow possibly falling as No. 18 Notre Dame (7-3) honors more than two dozen seniors before its home-season finale vs Boston College (3-7) on Saturday (2:30 ET; NBC). But do not read too much into it.
Consider fifth-year defensive end Justin Ademilola. He has an additional season of eligibility remaining if he’d like it, thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver. Yet he ran out of the tunnel individually for a brief moment of recognition before Notre Dame’s 55-0 win against Georgia Tech to conclude last year’s home-season and he may do so again Saturday.
That does not mean Ademilola will not return in 2023 — he has not made that decision — despite something Irish head coach Marcus Freeman said earlier in the week. Freeman clarified Thursday.
“There’s one or two guys that have an option after the season after they get their NFL grade reports if they decide to come back or not,” Freeman said. “What I don’t want them to do is not participate in Senior Day and decide to go to the NFL.
“If there’s a possibility of this being your last year of playing football, I want you to be part of Senior Day and those will be the guys that will be recognized on Saturday.”
Thus, Ademilola will enjoy one last moment in Notre Dame Stadium with his twin brother, defensive tackle Jayson, out of eligibility after this season. Then, Justin will have a decision to make. To once again emphasize, his moment of recognition before kickoff will not mean that choice has been made.
“Notre Dame has asked me to come back here,” Ademilola said this week. “I’m open to all decisions. I haven’t made up my mind on what I was going to do yet.”
The Irish will recognize 25 players before the home finale, a number that presumably does not include junior tight end Michael Mayer, though his decision to head to the NFL has assuredly been all-but made.
THOSE IN FLUX
Scanning Notre Dame’s stat sheet through 10 games this season, 25 players have contributed who could be considered seniors, be they traditional seniors, fifth-year veterans or a sixth-year exception like right guard Josh Lugg. The Irish plans for Saturday undoubtedly include a few walk-ons, names that do not show up on that stat sheet. So who among those 25 could conceivably return for another season?
— Defensive end Justin Ademilola.— Defensive end Isaiah Foskey has one season of eligibility remaining, but it would be a distinct surprise if he used it.— Defensive end Nana Osafo-Mensah has two seasons of eligibility remaining.— Defensive end Osita Ekwonu has appeared in two games this season and has two seasons of eligibility remaining. Consider him a ripe candidate to play elsewhere next season.— Defensive tackle Howard Cross has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
— Linebacker and leading tackler JD Bertrand has two seasons of eligibility remaining. If he used both of them, he might start to tread on some pretty lofty career stats in South Bend.— Linebacker Jack Kiser has two seasons of eligibility remaining.— Linebacker Marist Liufau has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
— Safety DJ Brown has one season of eligibility remaining, a possible sixth-year exception.— Safety and Northwestern transfer Brandon Joseph has two seasons of eligibility remaining. When he arrived at Notre Dame, Joseph’s intention was to play well enough to justify heading to the NFL after this season.— Cornerback Cam Hart has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
— Receiver Braden Lenzy has one season of eligibility remaining, by the letter of the law.— Center Zeke Correll has two seasons of eligibility remaining.— Left guard Jarrett Patterson has one season of eligibility remaining, but it would be a surprise if he used it, maybe more surprising than a Foskey return.
It’ll be cold Saturday, temperatures hanging out in the 20s with some snow possible and winds pushing 20 miles per hour, as of a midday Thursday forecast. That should be expected in northwest Indiana, but the first cold front of the year always hits harder, no?
Notre Dame spent all of Tuesday’s practice in the elements but opted for indoor work on Wednesday as snowfall would have rendered practice too sloppy to be productive, in Freeman’s judgment. He intends to return outside on Thursday.
“Dress warm and go play,” Freeman said. “If you dress appropriately, it won’t be an issue. If you try to be a tough guy — there is no such thing as cold tough guys. You better be a warm tough guy.”
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.
As a flu bug reportedly works its way through Boston College’s locker room, the greatest Irish concern for availability this weekend remains safety Brandon Joseph’s high-ankle sprain. Freeman deemed Joseph “doubtful,” but senior linebacker Jack Kiser is “probable,” coming back from a similar worry.
CHECKING THE LINE
Despite those reports of the flu wearing out some Eagles, the spread for this game has not jumped, remaining a 20.5- or 21-point edge in Irish favor, as of midday Thursday. The combined point total Over/Under, however, has fallen a point to 43, likely because of that frigid forecast and the accompanying winds.