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Notre Dame Notebook: Michael Mayer, Isaiah Foskey Have Decisions To Make, Cam Hart Injury Update, More

Notre Dame football head coach Marcus Freeman discussed the decisions Michael Mayer and Isaiah Foskey have about whether or not to play in the Gator Bowl as well as transfer portal decisions and timelines for other players

Notre Dame is headed to the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. The Fighting Irish will face the South Carolina Gamecocks on December 30th in Jacksonville, Fla. in what will be the program’s fourth all-time Gator Bowl appearance and first since 2002. Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman addressed a handful of topics shortly after the announcement that his team is Gator Bowl bound.

One of the most pressing questions Notre Dame and any team has at this time of year is who is playing in the bowl and who is not. The Irish already know Drew Pyne will not be playing, due to his decision to enter the transfer portal, but players like Michael Mayer and Isaiah Foskey must also decide on if they will play in the bowl or opt out in preparation for the upcoming NFL Draft.

"I met with both of both of them,” Freeman said of his veteran standouts. “We had a plan to sit out some guys (in practice last week) as recovery for these last two practices of development and trying to kind of really focusing on the younger guys and developing the younger guys on our team. I told both of those guys kind of just take the week and take a couple days to really think about what they want to do for their future, and we will discuss it sometime this week, probably early this week.”

More Player Meetings

Freeman has had meetings with other players about their future as well. For instance, Pyne’s decision to leave before the bowl was sparked by the upfront conversation Freeman had with the quarterback about the plans to prepare Tyler Buchner to play in the bowl. Freeman is expected to be very active in the transfer portal this offseason and he has had talks with other players about their future plans.

"We've had individual meetings with a lot of our players,” Freeman explained. "Really just talked to them about taking it a little bit of time to kind of figure out their plans for transfer portal, for planning the bowl game and other decisions they have to make. And so, we've had individual meetings all week. That's one of the good things about having these four days of a dead period to meet with your guys and talk about the roster and make plans as a head coach.”

A Timetable For The Decisions

Freeman was asked if he has set a deadline for players to decide whether they will opt out of a bowl or enter the transfer portal.

"We haven't set a firm date deadline,” Freeman remarked. “But we told them, listen, we know as far as getting into the portal, the portal opens on Monday and so we need to kind of have an idea of what the future plans are for certain guys. But for our guys that are deciding if they're going to play or opt out for the NFL draft, they understand that the sooner the better. I just didn't want them to have to rush into a decision. Kind of just take a week. We just got done playing a 12-game season. Take a week, talk amongst the people they trust, their coaches, their families and probably be ready to make a decision here Monday, early this week.”

Cam Hart’s Injury

Cornerback Cam Hart announced last week that he will return next year for his fifth season of eligibility at Notre Dame, but he also said in his announcement that he will miss Notre Dame’s bowl due to injury.

"He had a shoulder injury that he's going to end up having surgery on,” said Freeman. "He'll be out obviously for the bowl game.”

Playing An SEC Team In a Bowl

South Carolina will be the third SEC program Notre Dame has played in a bowl in the past 11 seasons. They have faced Alabama twice in the postseason and LSU twice as well in that span. Notre Dame has faced two other SEC teams in the regular season (Georgia, Vanderbilt) during that span.

"I think any competitor wants to play great teams,” Freeman said of facing South Carolina. "I haven't watched a lot of South Carolina but I think they played Tennessee the day we played Boston College and so I was able to see maybe the last quarter. I remember watching a couple plays with my kids and saying, Wow, you know, this team's explosive and they're extremely talented. I haven't had a chance to really watch the Clemson game but for them to be a common opponent, like Clemson that's an extremely talented team that just won the ACC yesterday. You're facing an extremely talented opponent. And, again, we're competitors, we want that. We want a chance to play a great opponent to see how good this football program is.”

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