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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame 2023 depth chart projection: Special teams brings in new names

Notre Dame special teams will undergo some changes ahead of the 2023 season, including starting their third different kicker in three seasons. One of the nation’s most improved units will look to continue to impact the game positively for the Irish under special teams coach Brian Mason. 

2022 Summary

The Irish were a dynamic special teams unit, headlined by their nation-leading seven punt blocks. They notched the first score of Notre Dame’s 35-14 upset of then-No. 4 Clemson. In the kicking game, graduate transfer Blake Grupe made 14 of 19 field goals and was perfect on 49 extra point attempts. He ended his Irish career by making all four field goal attempts over his final three games. Grupe was consistent from short range, connecting on eight of of nine attempts within 40 yards. Walk-on freshman Zac Yoakam served as the Irish’s kickoff specialist. 

In the punting game, Harvard transfer Jon Sot averaged 43.9 yards per kick, ranking inside the nation’s top 30 punters. Graduate student Mike Vinson, nicknamed “Milk,” continued to prove why he is one of the best long snappers in the country, providing remarkable consistency at the position. 

In the return game, the Irish ranked 14th nationally in total punt return yardage and 27th in average yards per punt return. Senior safety Brandon Joseph did most of the work, although graduate student Matt Salerno stepped in during Joseph’s injury at the end of the season. Junior running back Chris Tyree was the primary kick returner, and he had less success. His 16.9 yards per kick return was the third-worst mark in the country. 

Key Departures

Blake Grupe, Jon Sot, Brandon Joseph

The Irish will need to replace their kicker and punter duo, and they’re losing their primary punt returner as well. Grupe was solid in 2022, but he struggled from distance. The Irish didn’t even attempt a field goal from 50+ yards. Sot was solid, consistently flipping the field and helping the Irish win the field position battle in the majority of their games. Joseph returned 18 punts for 179 yards but declared for the NFL draft after his lone season in South Bend. 

Transfer Portal Additions

K: Spencer Shrader, P: Ben Krimm

The Irish already replaced their voids at kicker and punter via the transfer portal. Apparently not content with riding with an in-house backup option, the Irish reached into the portal for South Florida graduate transfer Spencer Shrader. Shrader is 20-26 over his past two seasons with a long of 52 yards. Shrader took a small step back in 2022, going just 2-5 from 40-plus yards after making five of seven attempts from at least 40 yards out in 2021. He’ll look to re-establish that long range accuracy with the Irish. He’s also 12-13 from closer than 40 yards over the past two seasons and a perfect 62-62 on extra points. At the very least, the Irish seem to be getting a similar kicker to Grupe with potentially a little extra juice. 

Krimm transfers from Penn, making it two straight former Ivy League punters for Notre Dame. He averaged 41.6 yards per punt this year, notching punts of at least 50 yards in six of his 10 games in 2022. His season-best effort was 60 yards, and he should slot into the starting punting role for the Irish. 

Freshman Additions

The Irish didn’t add any specialists in their 2023 recruiting class. However, they did add a handful of dynamic athletes that could improve their return game. Safety Micah Bell, running back Jeremiyah Love and wide receiver Braylon James are among the top speedsters in the class. Bell, a track star, has a 20.89 200-meter dash time. Love and James have recorded top speeds of 21.39 mph and 20.45 mph according to the Underclassman Report. Preferred walk-on safety Luke Talich also boasts a 40-yard dash in the 4.5s and could factor in to the discussion. 

Projected Depth Chart

Kicker: Spencer Shrader, Zac Yoakam

Punter: Ben Krimm, Bryce McFerson

KR: Chris Tyree, Lorenzo Styles

PR: Micah Bell, Matt Salerno

LS: Mike Vinson, Rino Monteforte

Holder: Ben Krimm, Bryce McFerson

Kickoff: Zac Yoakam, Bryce McFerson

Contact Aidan Thomas at