Clarity comes to Senior Day for Avery Davis, other Notre Dame veterans

Mike Berardino
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — Two-time Notre Dame captain Avery Davis will be among 25 outgoing players honored Saturday afternoon at Senior Day against Boston College.

That means Davis, the sixth-year wide receiver who suffered his second season-ending ACL tear in August, will not be petitioning the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility. Davis, part of the 2017 recruiting class, also played running back and cornerback during his Notre Dame career.

“The only guys being recognized as seniors are the ones that have said this is their last season here at Notre Dame,” Irish coach Marcus Freeman said Monday. “Avery Davis is a senior and this will be his last season here at Notre Dame.”

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On Aug. 29, Freeman said Davis, with 66 career receptions for 862 yards and eight touchdowns, would “absolutely” be welcomed back if he decided to pursue a seventh season. The 2020 season did not count against players’ eligibility due to COVID-19 policies.

“It’s up to Avery,” Freeman said in August. “If that’s something Avery Davis wants to do, we would welcome it with open arms.”

With a top-three recruiting class heading into the Dec. 21 early signing date — including a trio of four-star wideouts (Braylon James, Jaden Greathouse and Rico Flores) — Freeman wanted as much clarity as possible from players on the current roster.

“Guys that might consider coming back for a fifth, sixth year, they won’t be recognized for Senior Day,” Freeman said. “The guys that (will be honored) have said they know for certain: ‘This is my last season, my last game at Notre Dame Stadium and I’m a senior.’ “

Junior tight end Michael Mayer and anyone else expected to leave as early entrants to the NFL Draft will not be honored during the pregame ceremony. Freeman said he wants the entire roster to be on the field for the ceremony to thank the seniors for their contributions.

“I want it to be special,” Freeman said. “I don’t know what it’s been like in the past. What does it mean to be a senior? Yes, you’re a senior in terms of your eligibility in school, but this is your last season. You’re not coming back for another year. For those guys, we want to make it special.”

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Freeman on Virginia tragedy

Freeman began Monday’s news conference by addressing the tragic shooting at the University of Virginia that claimed the lives of three Cavaliers football players: junior receiver Lavel Davis Jr., junior receiver Devin Chandler and junior defensive end/linebacker D’Sean Perry.

“I especially want to send thoughts out to coach (Tony) Elliott and the football program,” Freeman said. “I can’t fathom what they’re going through right now. It’s a painful reminder of how fragile life is and how important it is always (to) tell those people you love them.”

Elliott, a former Clemson assistant, is in his first year as head coach at Virginia.

The suspect in the shooting, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., was listed as a walk-on running back on the 2018 Virginia football roster.

Chandler, a Wisconsin transfer from Huntersville, N.C., who spent the 2020 and 2021 seasons with the Badgers, returned three kickoffs for a total of 73 yards against Notre Dame last season at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

Perry, a Miami product, was on the field for two defensive plays against Notre Dame last November in Charlottesville, Va. Davis, signed out of Dorchester, S.C., did not play in 2021 due to injury.

According to University of Virginia president Jim Ryan, two other students were shot and hospitalized, with one of the victims in critical condition. Ryan did not immediately identify those two victims.

Brandon Joseph still healing

Leading tackler JD Bertrand has returned to practice after missing Saturday’s win at Navy as he recovered from a groin issue.

Starting safety Brandon Joseph, however, could miss a second straight game Saturday due to a high ankle sprain suffered in the first half against Clemson.

A junior transfer from Northwestern who also handles punt returns, Joseph was unable to practice Sunday and remains questionable for Senior Day against Boston College. In Joseph’s absence, redshirt sophomore Xavier Watts tied for the team lead with eight tackles against Navy while leading all Irish safeties with 44 defensive snaps.

Watts was named defensive player of the game by the coaching staff.

Senior linebacker Jack Kiser, who became the sixth different Notre Dame player to block a punt this season, earned the nod from the coaching staff on special teams. Kiser, who also made eight tackles against Navy, missed Sunday’s practice with an ankle sprain but is on track to play Saturday, Freeman said.

Debuts for Jaylen Sneed, Gi'Bran Payne

Freshman linebacker Jaylen Sneed, the five-star recruit from Hilton Head, S.C., made his Notre Dame debut with nine defensive snaps in a reserve role against Navy.

Sneed’s first career tackle came early in the third quarter when he stopped Navy quarterback Xavier Arline a yard shy of the first down on a third-and-5 keeper. With Bertrand injured and Kiser playing more at rover, Sneed had already been moved up on the depth chart as an inside linebacker.

Sneed’s “very specific” role in the third-down package was to cover the extra tight end whenever Navy went to so-called “heavy personnel,” Freeman said.

“We were getting thin at the linebacker position just because of some injuries,” Freeman said. “We thought this was a great opportunity for Jaylen. It wasn’t too challenging in terms of the mental aspect of it, but physically it was challenging. He did a great job of executing it.”  

Freshman running back Gi’Bran Payne also debuted against Navy as a second kickoff returner in the wake of Joe Wilkins Jr.’s decision to transfer. Like Sneed, Payne can play in the three remaining games (including the bowl game) without sacrificing his redshirt season.

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

No. 18 Notre Dame (7-3) vs. Boston College (3-7) 

When: Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EST 

Where: Notre Dame Stadium (77,622), South Bend, Ind. 

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

Line: Notre Dame opens as a 19 -point favorite  

Series: Notre Dame leads 16-9 

Last meeting: Notre Dame won 45-31 in Chestnut Hill, Mass.