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Notre Dame Football

Less Emotion for Notre Dame LB Bo Bauer Has Paid Off

October 29, 2020

Bo Bauer entered 2020 known for his energy.

The last two seasons, the Notre Dame linebacker had taken on a role where he showed his emotion hyping up his teammates or the crowd after big plays, primarily on special teams.

In 2020, Bauer changed his emotional level and allowed him to get on the field and become a playmaker in Clark Lea's defense. 

"The first step was that I sat down with Coach Lea and we talked about intensity level," Bauer stated. "People perform at their maximum performance at different levels. I always tried to be an 11 on the 10 scale. I've since backed that down to a three or four, which has allowed me to breathe and focus on the things I need to and not be so all over the place all the time."

Calming down has allowed Bauer to settle into a third-down role and improve his coverage, which was also a focus during the offseason. 

"Throughout this offseason, Coach Lea and Coach Nick (Lezynski) have done a great job to help me in my coverage and understanding what we're doing," explained Bauer. "They're making me feel comfortable in coverage overall. That's definitely the main thing we've focused on during quarantine and the summer."

Changing his temperament wasn't easy for Bauer. The emotion and hype of playing the game of football is something that naturally comes with the game, but Bauer has reaped the rewards of his hard work and being mature enough to listen to what his coaches were telling him. 

"It was a long, hard-fought battle," said Bauer. "At first, I tried to fight Coach Lea on it. I always liked to be the high sprung and wound guy, but over probably about a year and a half, through him and him, Dr. (Amber) Selking, Coach Nick and my teammates, they've helped me move into this role I've found myself naturally performing at my best. 

"I've kind of never looked back. I feel like it's more natural now. It's never any fake. I just found success there. It wasn't a smooth path and it was difficult to get there using different techniques Dr. Selking equipped me with and talking with Coach Lea and Coach Nick." 

The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder saw everything come full circle last Saturday as he recorded an interception in Notre Dame's 45-3 win over Pitt. 

"I was in my backpedal reading the eyes of the quarterback," recalled Bauer. "I just ended up being in the right position and we had a lot of guys on the field doing the right jobs. They were covering up people and covering up the quarterback's first look. The defensive linemen put him in a stressful situation and he ended up making a choice. I happened to end up being on the receiving end of the interception."

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly highlighted the celebration on the sidelines for Bauer after the play and it's a moment the Pennsylvania native will cherish. 

"It's just made me really happy to see my teammates be that happy for me," smiled Bauer. "They support me through my ups and downs throughout my time here. It hasn't been a very straight path, but just to get to the point where I have a little success like that and to see them celebrate for me really meant the world to me." 

The interception also gave Notre Dame's defense a much-needed boost and it served as an answer to Kelly's challenge to the team of raising their game to prepare for what's next.

It wasn't a standard message as Kelly has driven home taking things on a day-to-day basis over his tenure, but Bauer admitted he didn't totally understand what his head coach meant at first.

"Coach Lea helped me walk through it and he was talking about playing loose and free," Bauer said. "Sometimes you have to take a step back and remember where you're headed. If you're always under the microscope, then you can't always see the big picture.

"It helped us focus on our long-term goals while not forgetting being in the moment is key in our success." 

Notre Dame's defense has found success in Lea's third-year as defensive coordinator and that includes holding 30-of-31 opponents to 30 points or less. 

It might sound like a high number, but in today's college football world, it's a statement and Lea wasn't happy following giving up 26 points to Florida State regardless of circumstances. 

Lea made changes. Bauer and the defense have appreciated the adjustments as it has given them more freedom in various areas.

"Coach Lea has done a great job of stepping back and realizing that he wants us to play with instinct," Bauer explained. "Instead of him always trying to get us into the perfect call every single snap, he wants to get us in a call he knows we can have success in and let us play football. He's really just changed in wanting us to have fun all the time and promoting us to play fast, physical and free. 

"It's a big difference just allowing us to go play instead of having to think about everything all the time. Coach Lea has done a great job of equipping us to do that." 

The Irish defense is still complicated, but it's more player-friendly and allows each player to maximize their strengths. 

"I don't think the call list has gone down," said Bauer. "We're still always focused on preparing to our top level, but I think it's getting the call in a timely manner and the things not working throughout the week are discarded. Coming into the week, we still try to have a variety of calls that can put us in successful positions."

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