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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame TE Mitchell Evans Ready for More in Gator Bowl

December 26, 2022
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Notre Dame’s offense will look different on Friday as the Irish take on South Carolina in the Gator Bowl. 

There will be a new quarterback (or two) as Drew Pyne is off to Arizona State and All-American tight end Michael Mayer is off to the NFL. 

Sophomore tight end Mitchell Evans has seen plenty of playing time over the first two seasons of his career, but this will be his first game as the guy. It’s a role the 6-foot-5, 265-pounder has dreamed of and Evans knows it won’t be just him stepping up against the Gamecocks to replace Mayer. 

"A lot of us have stepped up,” explained Evans. “We've all had to take on a bigger role with some departures from our room. Everybody is stepping up in a good way to fill that void a little bit in different areas. Mike was just an all-around good player. Each little thing that left with him, we've all filled in and done a pretty job of that so far."

Now, Evans knows he’s not expected to be a first-round draft pick against South Carolina, but he will lean on lessons learned from Mayer. 

“If you really have great people around you, you kind of elevate yourself to hold that standard,” stated Evans. “With him being here for two years, I feel I've forced myself the best I possibly could 24-7 because Mike is doing it, so I have to do it. You can't have a let-off because you're only as strong as your weakest link. Everybody has to play as good as they possibly can.” 

Notre Dame has held player-only meetings and film sessions throughout the year and they’ve been extremely valuable for the development of the roster. For Evans and the other tight ends, it allows them to bounce ideas off each other to see the best way to attack certain players or schemes. 

"It's been great because we had one yesterday after practice,” Evans said. “We went in for 30 minutes and watched a cut-up of different South Carolina fronts and even ourselves if it's this type of coverage and how we can attack the man that's guarding us. Do we stem it differently? We're learning off each other and bouncing ideas because there is always more than one way to attack a defense. We're just kind of bouncing ideas off each other, so it's good."

Freshman Holden Staes and sophomore Davis Sherwood will also be counted on to step up as the tight end room also lost sophomore Cane Berrong to the Transfer Portal this month. 

“It kind of sucks that we've had a few injuries and stuff, but even with that, I still feel we have one of the best rooms in the country,” said Evans. “I think we have the best. For this bowl game, we have me and Holden, Woody, and I think we're going to play a solid game.

"Coming in for the spring and next year, our room is going to be the best since I've been here. It's going to be the best. We have a lot of young guys coming in and guys coming off injuries and we'll be better than ever. I think we'll be really good next year."

And yes, Evans is also excited to get a chance to run some of the concepts Mayer ran, which means he’ll likely add to his two career receptions. 

"Since he left, nothing has really changed since his departure,” Evans stated. “We kind of kept stuff the same. Nothing has been different. There are a lot of plays he would run and like, I was like can't wait and now it's my turn."

Friday might not be a College Football Playoff game, but the game is important for the future of the Notre Dame football as several young players will have key roles and will have a chance make noise as spring football is just around the corner. 

“It's just going to be a glimpse of what it's going to be for next year,” said Evans. “We're going to win this game and get a lot of momentum going into next year and just kind of see what the future of Notre Dame football is going to be like in this game. We're all preparing like it's not meaningless.

“It's very meaningful to all of us. I haven't seen anyone go like, 'Oh, this game.' That has not been said at all. This game is very much like a Super Bowl to us. It's a very big game to us."

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