Michael Mayer says Notre Dame offense is in good hands with Gerad Parker

Mike Berardino
ND Insider
Mar 3, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (TE10) speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Former Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer only worked with Gerad Parker for one season, but the projected NFL first-round draft pick credits the newly promoted Irish offensive coordinator with helping him master the details that led to a consensus All-America selection.

“Great guy,” Mayer told reporters Friday morning at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. “Knows a ton about the game of football. It was really cool for me to be able to spend one year with him and have a little bit of success and for him to have success to be able to go be an OC.”

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Mayer spent his first two college seasons with former NFL assistant John McNulty as his position coach. When McNulty left 13 months ago to become Boston College’s offensive coordinator, Parker was brought in from West Virginia after two seasons as the pseudo co-OC for the Mountaineers.

Mayer, who starred at Covington (Ky.) Catholic near Cincinnati, and Parker, a Louisa, Ky., native who played wideout at Kentucky, had a natural connection through the Commonwealth.

“Both Kentucky boys,” Mayer said. “It was easy to get along with coach Parker.”

Nov 26, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Michael Mayer (87) celebrates his touchdown scored against the Southern California Trojans with tight end Mitchell Evans (88) during the first half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Mayer appreciated the way Parker pushed him to improve in all areas of his game, including blocking.

“The first thing he did was call me right when he got hired,” Mayer said. “He wasn’t even on campus yet. Called me right away and said, ‘Look, we’re going to do some special things this year. I already have some things in my mind I know we can do.’ “

Even though Parker had only coached tight ends for two seasons, 2013-14 at Purdue, he quickly became a trusted resource for Mayer.

“The first day he got on campus, we went and met,” Mayer said. “It’s not always about football for him. It’s always, ‘How’s life? How was your day?’ Things like that. It doesn’t always have to be football. … He builds a connection like that. He really cares what’s going on in your personal life too. That’s very important for a coach.”

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In his first seasons at Notre Dame, Mayer posted run-blocking grades of 71.3 and 64.7, according to Pro Football Focus. Through his first 24 games, he managed a grade of 80 or better just three times: South Florida and Clemson in 2020 and USC in 2021.

Under Parker’s direction last year, Mayer finished with a cumulative 82.1 run-blocking grade and scored 80 or better in three of his final five games.

“It was details,” Mayer said. “It was coming in and really focusing on, ‘Look, your foot should be going here. Your hands should be going here.’ Instead of just saying, ‘Yeah, you got in front of the guy. You blocked him.’ "

The same step-by-step approach helped Mayer improve his route precision and releases off the line.

“It was about what do you need to fix in terms of the detail world in your routes,” Mayer said. “It was, ‘Look, you need to go two more steps here because you have to go 3 or 4 more yards. You can’t cut that short. If you cut that short, the defender is going to pick it. He’s going to get a hand on it.’ We’ve really been focusing on details in the tight end room this past year.”

At 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, Mayer’s confidence as a blocker has skyrocketed.

“I can block anybody you need me to block,” he said.

Brandon Joseph's 'mental hump'

Former Irish safety Brandon Joseph, projected as a Day 2 draft pick, pronounced himself healthy after a high-ankle sprain caused him to miss all but one of the final four games last season.

Mar 2, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Notre Dame defensive back Brandon Joseph (DB52) speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Joseph, who was injured in the first half against Clemson on Nov. 5, played just 37 snaps in the loss at USC in the regular-season finale. Also the team’s primary punt returner, Joseph tried to make it back for the Gator Bowl but was unable to suit up.

“I had never missed a game in my career up to that point,” he said. “It was the first time I had to go through that experience sitting on the sideline through practice and games. To get over that mental hump and see how it is to sit out and eventually come back, it’s something that will make me stronger in the long run.”

After totaling nine interceptions in the previous two seasons at Northwestern, Joseph managed only one — a pick-six on the first play from scrimmage at Syracuse on Oct. 26 — after transferring to Notre Dame. Technically, he had two seasons of eligibility remaining when he entered his name in the NFL Draft.

“I knew I was ready now,” he said.

Isaiah Foskey tests well

Isaiah Foskey set the bar high this week when asked what he hoped to display at this Thursday combine workout.

“Just showcase that I’m one of the fastest defensive ends for my size,” Notre Dame’s career sacks leader told reporters. “I’m one of the most athletic guys. I can jump the highest, broad jump the farthest. Anything that you guys test me with, I’m pretty much going to be the top prospect for it.”

Mar 2, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Notre Dame defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey (DL29)  participates in drills during the NFL combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

At 6-foot-5 and 264 pounds, Foskey was clocked at 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash, ninth-fastest among edge players. The potential late first-round pick also impressed with a broad jump of 10 feet, 5 inches, which ranked seventh at his position group.

Foskey’s 34-inch vertical jump placed 11th out of 31 edge players. In the bench press, Foskey’s 22 repetitions of 225 pounds tied for 15th out of 25 edge players to participate.

“I ran track back in the day (at De La Salle in Concord, Calif.),” Foskey said, “so all of it’s pretty much just coming back to me.”

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