Notebook: Notre Dame-Alabama not in the cards for 2020 football season

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

The idea seemed more like speculation than a serious consideration from the very start.

During his Friday appearance on ESPN 97.7 The Zone’s Thom Abraham Show, Peach Bowl CEO and president Gary Stokan discussed the unknowns of the planned Chick-fil-A Kickoff games this season. Stokan oversees the series, which this year includes three games scheduled between ACC, SEC and Big 12 teams in Atlanta in early September (West Virginia-Florida State, Virginia-Georgia and North Carolina-Auburn).

Those three games have not been canceled yet, but as the three conferences evaluate their schedules ahead of the season there remains uncertainty if the games will be possible. That uncertainty led to Stokan floating the possibility of Notre Dame and Alabama playing against each other since both teams lost scheduled games against USC.

He suggested the teams could play in South Bend, Tuscaloosa, Ala., or Dallas.

That suggestion was squashed Saturday by Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne. He tweeted that Alabama and Notre Dame will not be playing this season. Instead, he’s looking forward to the home-and-home series scheduled with Notre Dame for 2028 and 2029.

There will certainly be plenty of scheduling developments coming the next few weeks for Notre Dame, but we can definitively rule out the Crimson Tide being added to the slate.

Evans visits

The NCAA-mandated dead period, which has been extended through Aug. 31 because of coronavirus concerns, prevents Notre Dame from hosting recruits for campus visits. But that doesn’t mean that recruits can’t make trips to campus to take in the sights.

That’s exactly what 2021 tight end target Mitchell Evans did on Saturday. Evans, a three-star recruit, couldn’t contact the Irish coaching staff while making the visit as part of the dead period limitations. Instead, Notre Dame offensive line commit Blake Fisher served as Evans’ unofficial tour guide.

Fisher, Notre Dame’s most frequent visitor and active recruiter in the 2020 class, made the drive up from Avon, Ind., to accompany Evans.

“I chose to go to the best university in the world!!” Fisher tweeted. “Being back home today felt great! #GoIrish”

Evans, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound product of Wadsworth (Ohio) Senior, recently included Notre Dame in his top 10 schools alongside Michigan State, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Florida State, Cincinnati and Indiana.

247Sports slates Evans as the No. 19 tight end in the 2021 class. Rivals ranks him No. 28 at the position.

Watch list worry?

The preseason watch lists released last week served as a good reminder of how much of Notre Dame’s offense enters the season unproven. The Irish are returning very little production from last season at running back, wide receiver and tight end. That was reflected when the watch lists for the Doak Walker (running back), Biletnikoff (receiver) and Mackey (tight end) awards didn’t include any Notre Dame players.

The preseason watch lists tend to be more reflective than predictive in naming potential standouts for the coming season. Players on the lists tend to be returning from successful seasons the previous year.

Notre Dame’s returning leaders in terms of last season’s production at running back, wide receiver and tight end are Jahmir Smith (180 rushing yards), Javon McKinley (268 receiving yards) and Tommy Tremble (183 receiving yards), respectively.

Three Notre Dame players did receive watch list nods earlier in the week. Safety Kyle Hamilton and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah were named to the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list for outstanding defensive player. Ian Book was named on the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award watch list.

Real schedule news

Notre Dame’s 2021 season opener at Florida State has been moved a day earlier.

The Seminoles announced they will host the Irish on Sunday, Sept. 5. The game was previously scheduled for Sept. 6 on Labor Day.

Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne dismissed the rumor that Alabama and Notre Dame would schedule a football game in 2020. The two teams last played in the BCS National Championship game in January 2013.