Michael Mayer will be in his 'own little world' when Notre Dame visits noisy Ohio State
SOUTH BEND — Those 110,000-plus Ohio State football fans can scream all they want at Notre Dame when the teams meet on Sept. 3 in the season-opening showdown at Ohio Stadium.
Michael Mayer, preseason second-team All-America tight end for the fifth-ranked Irish, promises he won’t hear a thing.
“I’ve always been in my own little world out there,” Mayer said after Wednesday’s practice. “Even in high school, I would never hear anything going on. Whenever I catch a ball or I’m blocking, the crowd noise is just totally blocked. It’s kind of weird.”
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The Covington (Ky.) Catholic product did take one spring recruiting trip to Ohio State early in his prep career, but that unofficial visit with then-coach Urban Meyer took place at the Buckeyes’ indoor practice facility. Mayer, who committed to Notre Dame early in his sophomore year, has never attended a game at The Horseshoe.
Notre Dame has blasted simulated crowd noise over the speakers during several practice periods this training camp. It even had new kicker Blake Grupe, the Arkansas State graduate transfer, kick a 42-yarder with fake crowd noise blaring.
Mayer, however, doesn’t seen too concerned. Asked several times about one of the loudest venues in college football, Mayer downplayed that as a factor for him, the offensive line or quarterback Tyler Buchner, who will be making his first career start.
“I don’t think anybody coming into this game is (concerned about noise),” Mayer said. “We’re here to play football. We’re not here to worry about the crowd noise, you know? We’re here to play football, play our game.”
While Buchner was exposed to “Enter Sandman” and played well in relief at Virginia Tech last October, Mayer missed that game with a groin injury. Mayer’s 2020 season was played under COVID-reduced crowd conditions, so when asked about the most hostile road environment of his brief college career, he cited the 2021 overtime win at Florida State.
That raucous crowd of 68,316 for the season opener at Doak Campbell Stadium was “pretty loud,” Mayer said, but there were still more than 11,000 empty seats that night.
That won’t be the case on Sept. 3 when the Buckeyes and Irish meet for the seventh time ever. Notre Dame hasn’t beaten Ohio State since 1936, dropping the last four meetings, including a pair of Fiesta Bowl losses a decade apart (2006 and 2016).
“I don’t think it’s anything different than the other stadiums we’re going to be playing in this year,” Mayer said of Ohio Stadium. “To me it’s like, ‘Home game, away game, just go play football.’ I mean, I’m not worried about it. Go out there and play the best ball we can play.”
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He joked that having “annoying brothers and sisters” wasn’t necessarily the reason for his ability to block out distractions.
“I think it’s just how I am,” he said. “I think it’s just being focused, being locked in, being lasered in. Even a home game, I don’t need crowd noise. Everything’s up here. I don’t really need anything external. … I don’t even hear anything going on outside when I’m playing football out there. I never even have to worry about it.”
Sudden Impact for Eli Raridon, Holden Staes
June enrollees Eli Raridon and Holden Staes have made a strong early impression as they compete for playing time in a crowded tight end room.
Both freshmen have “elite ball skills,” according to position coach Gerad Parker, and Mayer even noted a resemblance to himself when he showed up on campus two summers ago.
“I kind of see my freshman self in there,” Mayer said. “I remember my freshman year where I’d just catch those shallows and run after the (catch). Those guys can run. They both have great catching abilities. Oh, they’re going to be good. They’re going to be really good.”
Both four-star recruits who were rated among the top 11 tight ends in their signing class nationally, Raridon and Staes are from Des Moines, Iowa and Atlanta, respectively. Raridon is listed at 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds, and Staes is listed at 6-4 and 226 pounds.
“They’ve got a little bit of weight to put on, a little more muscle to get,” Mayer said. “They’re going to be fast, they’re going to be strong. Notre Dame tight ends will be set up for a good long time.”
Kentucky floods 'a sad deal' to Gerad Parker
The torrential rains and massive floods that devastated eastern Kentucky in late July have weighed on Parker's heart.
A native of Louisa, Ky., the former star receiver at Lawrence County High School still has plenty of extended family along the Big Sandy River that borders West Virginia. While Parker’s family wasn’t impact directly, he closely followed reports of 25,000 homes that were destroyed and millions of dollars in property damage.
“It was about 40 minutes south of us where it was really bad,” Parker said. “Everybody in our family is safe and good, but you feel guilty saying that. There was a lot of people (affected) in an area that I know very well. Such a sad deal.”
The former University of Kentucky player and West Virginia assistant coach recalled playing “up and down that river” while in high school.
“My brother works in insurance back in Kentucky and he went down there,” Parker said. “He explained it because (when) the tornadoes hit in western Kentucky a couple years ago, they could at least get out to some places. But when it’s water, they couldn’t go anywhere because everything was gone.”
He noted that life’s necessities became unavailable to entire communities that lost their homes.
“Simple things (such) as having a restroom and all that,” Parker said. “I know it’s been a struggle but they’re repairing it and getting help that’s come on the way.”
Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for the South Bend Tribune and NDInsider.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino and TikTok @mikeberardinoNDI.