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Where Notre Dame Was & Is: Tight ends, obviously led by All-American Michael Mayer

Georgia Tech v Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 20: Michael Mayer #87 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a touchdown during the first half at Notre Dame Stadium on November 20, 2021 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

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Verb tenses are not meant to be ambiguous, but when discussing Notre Dame’s tight ends, the Irish are where they were, which is to say, Michael Mayer is still around.

This should be the rising junior’s final season. It would take quite the worrisome injury to change that trajectory. Don’t spend time accusing anyone of a jinx; that is simply pointing out the distinct reality of Mayer’s abilities. He could have started in the NFL in 2021, let alone in 2023.

The only change to the Irish depth chart at tight end comes via the departure of George Takacs. The veteran was always stuck behind NFL talents, be it Cole Kmet, Tommy Tremble or Mayer. Yet on the rare occasion Takacs had an opportunity, he showed strong hands to make the most of it.

After initially announcing in early January he would return to Notre Dame for a fifth season in 2022, he changed his mind a month later, shortly after the majority of the Irish coaching staff turned over, including tight ends coach John McNulty becoming the offensive coordinator at 2022-opponent Boston College. At this point, Takacs has not announced his next destination.

He finished his Notre Dame career with eight catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns in 29 games.

2021 STATS
Michael Mayer: 71 catches for 840 yards and seven touchdowns.George Takacs: 3 catches for 36 yards and one touchdown.Mitchell Evans: 2 catches for 21 yards.Kevin Bauman: 1 catch for 10 yards.

Takacs would have backed up Mayer in 2022, in a way that likely included more action. Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees has long enjoyed using multiple tight ends, and Takacs would have been the clear-cut No. 2 in 2022.

Now, rising sophomore Mitchell Evans will have the best chance at that role, in part because of health. Junior Kevin Bauman broke his leg last season, sophomore Cane Berrong tore his ACL and incoming freshman Eli Raridon tore his ACL in his final preps season. Those should all be considered healthy by September, but simply getting the most work this spring and summer will give Evans a clear advantage.

Furthermore, his ample size (6-foot-5 ⅛, 250 pounds) will make him a nice blocking complement to Mayer’s downfield catching abilities.

But, of course, it all comes down to Mayer. He would be a first-round pick this year if he was eligible for the NFL. He will again lead Notre Dame in catches and touchdowns, and presumably, he’ll add yards to that standard in 2022 after Kevin Austin beat him out by 48 yards last season.

Parker spent the last two years as the co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach at West Virginia, so working with the tight ends is simultaneously familiar territory and a new singular focus.

“I’ve done it and been around it and to think about it, the entire scope of it all the last few years,” Parker said last month. “... Scheme-wise and those things, it’s just going to lean on what we are and who we are as a scheme and going where we’re supposed to go.

“It’s just like anything, the pieces that will make you (go) from good to great are just details, hand-placement, footwork, assignments and how to teach them to get there.”

Parker could not have a better primary pupil for his debut season in South Bend.

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