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Can Trio of Irish Tight Ends Fill Void Left by Departure of Michael Mayer?

Written by Phil Kowalis|Writer|Twitter: @PhilKowalisIT

(Photo: Saturdayroad.com)


When Michael Mayer announced his intention to forgo his final season of eligibility and enter the 2023 NFL Draft, Marcus Freeman and his offensive coaching staff were left with the daunting task of finding a way to replace the production the loss of Mayer created.

While it is unlikely that Notre Dame has an individual on the current roster that can match the 69 receptions 809 yards and 9 touchdowns that Mayer accounted for last season, through the first four games of the 2023 season the Irish have turned to a trio of tight ends to replace Mayer's offensive production.

Juniors Mitchell Evans and Davis Sherwood, as well as Sophomore Holden Staes have all found themselves on the receiving end of passes from Irish quarterback Sam Hartman.

Let's look at how the production of the trio of tight ends compare to the production of Mayer through the first four games of the season.

(Photo: 247sports)


Through the first four games last season, Mayer had 22 catches for 222 yards and three touchdowns.

Despite not being targeted in the season opener against Navy, the trio of Evans, Staes and Sherwood have combined for 13 catches good for 204 yards and four touchdowns.

Through the first quarter of the season, the level of production for the tight end position in 2023 is very comparable to the numbers Mayer put up a season ago.

The trio of Evans, Staes and Sherwood trail both in the number of catches and total yard, but lead Mayer's production in Touchdown receptions.

Digging deeper into the numbers, the one thing that needs to be remembered is that in 2022, the quality of quarterback play for Notre Dame was less than desirable. The combination of Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne combined to go 72-for-113 passing for 837 yards with 6 touchdowns and three interceptions. Those numbers were buoyed by Pyne's week four performance against North Carolina in which he completed 24-of-34 passes for 289 yards and three TD's.

By comparison this season, Sam Hartman in four games has completed 64-of -90 passes for 1,061 with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions.

The poor quarterback play through the first four games makes Mayer's numbers just that much more impressive. Mayer's production really didn't pick up until the play of the quarterback became a little more stable starting in week four when Mayer had a seven-catch game against the Tar Heels, and followed that up with a 11 catch 118-yard two touchdown game against BYU.

So while the trio of Evans, Staes and Sherwood have been able to match Mayer's production through the first quarter of the season, their ability to step up there play and match Mayer's numbers for the full season remains to be seen.

The trio of Evans, Staes and Sherwood is currently on pace for season totals of 39 catches, 612 yards and 12 touchdowns.

(Photo: 247sports)


Looking at the stable of tight ends individually this season, Staes has recorded six catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns.

Evans has caught five passes for a total of 63 yards, and Sherwood has added two catches good for 18 yards and a touchdown,

So while as a group, the Irish tight ends match Mayer's' production through the first four games of the season, only Staes has posted individual numbers that are close to what the Irish all-American put up a season ago. It is important to note, however, that Michael Mayer was undoubtedly the primary target for the Irish offense last season, and this season the tight end group must compete for targets not only with each other, but with the group of newly emerging receiving threats on the outside.

This season Sam Hartman has been more determined to spread the ball around and show an ability to take what the defense is giving him, as at least eight different receivers have caught passes in each of Notre Dame's first four games this season.

The continued growth of this season's tight end group both in terms of development and production will be worth keeping a close eye on as the year progresses, and may play a big role in how successful the season can be.

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