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Notre Dame Football

Mayer on the Verge of Greatness

April 27, 2021
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There’s been some positive movement at Notre Dame with veteran wide receivers this spring. Brian Kelly and Tommy Rees have both praised the work of Lawrence Keys, Braden Lenzy, and Joe Wilkins.

There’s a world where all three become factors for the Irish offense this season with Keys and Lenzy in particular adding a critical speed element to the passing game. It would be great if they are able to help create more explosive plays for the Irish.

That may happen, but it’s doubtful any of them becomes the go-to guy for Notre Dame’s passing game. That may end up being Kevin Austin, if he can stay on the field to accomplish that. If not him, Michael Mayer may evolve into that if he hasn’t already.

When asked if it’s possible to have a tight end as the top target on offense, Rees made it clear that it can be done.

"It was in 2012. I can tell you that,” said Rees in reference to Tyler Eifert’s role in the offense that season. “I don't see why it should be any different in terms of being able to feature someone.”

Mayer was already featured heavily as a true freshman and there isn’t any reason to believe that is going to decrease this season. He was targeted 59 times (tied for the team lead with Javon McKinley) and led the team in catches for first downs (32). Only Florida’s Kyle Pitts, Boston College’s Hunter Long, and Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar caught more first downs from the tight end position in all of college football.

There wasn’t a tight end that caught more passes on third down than Mayer either. He hauled in 16 passes, 14 of which went for first downs. He’s on the verge of becoming a great player and he’s only going to get better.

"In terms of Mike's ability, I think he's really only scratching the surface and last year was only a brief glimpse of how good this kid can be,” Rees stated. “There's something to say about the way he works, the tenacity he plays with, the edge he plays with - he's extremely talented, but there is a reason why he's a great player.

"The mentality is there. I'd say the same thing about Kyren. Those two really have the same type of mentality where they're going to compete every single opportunity they have and they're not going to let it slow them down.”

The one thing to watch this season is how Rees elects to utilize Mayer outside of where he lined up last season.

"For us, it's about trying to isolate matchups for Mike,” Rees said. “How do we get him where they can't help? Where can we get him 1-on-1? It really doesn't matter if it's a corner because he'll' have a size advantage. If it's a safety or linebacker, he's going to have an agility advantage.

"We're going to do as many things as we can to isolate him where they can't help with a second player."

In 2020, 63.5% of pass snaps he lined up in the slot and he was out wide on 9.5% of passing plays. Seeing him lineup more to the boundary may be an obvious adjustment to force teams to single cover him. And if they elect to play zone, they might still want to throw it up to him like Everett Golson did for Eifert against Stanford in 2012.

via GIPHY

If the game is on the line and Notre Dame is looking to move the chains, the ball is likely going to be thrown in Mayer’s direction. If he can build on what he did last season, then that should equal to very good things for the Irish offense this fall.

 
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