Help for Tommy Rees and inconsistent offense? Notre Dame remains open to the idea

Mike Berardino
ND Insider
Apr 23, 2022; Notre Dame, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees talks to quarterback Drew Pyne (10) during warmups before the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame, ranked 99th in scoring offense, was more than willing to take a page out of Nick Saban’s Alabama playbook this offseason and hire an experienced offensive analyst to assist 30-year-old coordinator Tommy Rees.

For whatever reason, nothing came together.

“Bringing on an additional offensive analyst was something we were looking at prior to the start of the season,” first-year coach Marcus Freeman said Thursday in a video teleconference, “but it had to be the right fit, had to be the right person. Just the couple avenues we looked at and talked to, it wasn’t going to be what’s right for us and what’s right for those guys maybe we had talked to and just kind of felt out.”

Former Duke and Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe, 68, would have been one example of a potential fit after stepping down following 14 seasons with the Blue Devils. In early 2005, Cutcliffe spent two months at Notre Dame as assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach for the newly hired Charlie Weis.

A triple-bypass heart procedure led to Cutcliffe going on medical leave and later resigning his position that June. Cutcliffe, who mentored both Manning Brothers (Peyton and Eli) as well as current New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, is working for the Southeastern Conference as a special assistant to Commissioner Greg Sankey.

“I don’t think it’s a vacancy as much as we’re always looking for ways to enhance our program,” Freeman said. “It’s not a vacancy where we’re looking to fill it. We’re not looking for just anybody to fill a spot. It has to be somebody that truly fits this staff and the direction we’re going.”

On Tuesday, Rees said the search for an offensive analyst continued “all the way up through training camp” and technically remains ongoing.

“We were hungry to add that,” said Rees, who replaced Chip Long after the 2019 season. “That is something we were eager to try to explore and try to make work. We were working with the university and trying to find ways to get some guys here. It didn’t work right now. It doesn’t mean it won’t work moving forward.”

Tobias Merriweather:'Oh, that!' — Freshman wide receiver makes his long-awaited splash for Notre Dame football

Second knee surgery for Eli Raridon

Freshman tight end Eli Raridon, a key blocker in short-yardage situations, will miss the rest of the season after suffering a non-contact tear of his ACL, Freeman announced.

It’s the same knee that Raridon injured in December while playing basketball for Valley High School in Des Moines, Iowa. Raridon played 76 offensive snaps over a period of five games this season, including six in last week’s loss to Stanford, and has exceeded the limit to request a medical redshirt.

Notre Dame's Eli Raridon prior to Notre Dame Fall Practice on Friday, August 05, 2022, at Irish Athletics Center in South Bend, Indiana.

Raridon joins fellow tight end Kevin Bauman and senior linebacker/captain Bo Bauer on the season-ending knee surgery docket for team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian Ratigan.

Only left tackle Joe Alt had a higher run-blocking grade for the Irish than the 6-foot-7, 245-pound Raridon, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Eli was really learning and practicing and playing at a high level,” Freeman said. “He was improving.”

Sophomore Mitch Evans returned last week from July foot surgery to become the primary backup to All-America candidate Michael Mayer. With Raridon out, fellow freshman Holden Staes moves up in the pecking order after appearing in four games for 26 total snaps.

More of a receiving threat than a blocker, Staes has made one catch for 11 yards.

“His game plan and what he’s going to be asked to do will increase,” Freeman said. “He’s up for the challenge. He’s an extremely intelligent kid. He’s improving daily, and I look forward to seeing what he does with this increased role.”

Jayson Ademilola, Jaden Mickey still questionable

Senior defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola (rib contusion) remains questionable for Saturday’s game against UNLV.

Ademilola, injured in the second quarter against Stanford, was unable to make it through a full practice as of Thursday’s midday update.

“It’s not a bone or a strain, it’s more just the healing of a muscle in his rib (area),” Freeman said. “The ability for him to take deep breaths, that’s my biggest concern: his wind. It’s not getting hit as much as his capacity to breathe and his lungs.”

Freshman cornerback Jaden Mickey, who missed the Stanford game with an abductor muscle strain near his hip, was limited in practice on Wednesday as a precaution and remains questionable for Saturday.

UNLV (4-3) vs. Notre Dame (3-3) 

When: Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EST 

Where: Notre Dame Stadium (77,660) 

TV/Radio: Peacock streaming, WSBT Radio (960 AM), WNSN (101.5 FM) 

Line: Notre Dame opens as a 24-point favorite  

Series: First meeting 

Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.