No. 11 Notre Dame has star TE Michael Mayer back healthy

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Michael Mayer‘s return from injury started the same way as his season: with the football in his hands on the first snap of the game.

On Saturday, that took the form of a quick 4-yard pickup to kickstart Notre Dame’s 31-16 win over USC. In the season opener at Florida State, the first play from scrimmage began similarly, with a short throw from quarterback Jack Coan that Mayer turned into a 25-yard gain.

In between was a month of Michael Mayer being Michael Mayer – No. 11 Notre Dame’s most consistent offensive weapon and one of the best tight ends in college football. A hip adductor strain hampered him against Cincinnati and sidelined him at Virginia Tech, but after the bye week, Mayer made a triumphant return under the lights of Notre Dame Stadium.

The 6-foot-4 sophomore has been targeted on Notre Dame’s first or second offensive play in four of the six games he’s played in. Of his 414 season receiving yards, 153 have come on the team’s first offensive drive of the game – 37% of the total. Of his three touchdowns, two are the result of opening drives – putting Notre Dame on the board in the third minute against both Florida State and Toledo.

Mayer said he likes being in the mix early, crediting the opening-drive targets with an initial adrenaline boost.

“I think it sets a tone for the entire game,” Mayer said. “I definitely like that. I like that style of play, and (it) kind of gets me ready for the game.”

Through seven games, Mayer’s 414 yards make him Notre Dame’s leading receiver by a wide margin. George Takacs is the only other tight end with a reception – one catch for 15 yards, which came when the Irish were without Mayer in Blacksburg.

Mayer’s season got off to a booming start, with 120 yards receiving in the opener against Florida State and a two-touchdown game against Toledo. That momentum was stalled with the hip injury, which Mayer said dated to fall camp but was “tweaked” during the Cincinnati game.

While dealing with the injury, Mayer said his strength when running routes and planting his foot was impaired. While initially optimistic that he could play at Virginia Tech on Oct. 9, Mayer said he and coach Brian Kelly discussed the dangers of coming back too soon, of possibly worsening the injury. He sat out.

“It’s risk/reward type thing,” Mayer said, “and I think I made the right decision.”

Notre Dame’s bye week gifted an extra few days of recovery time. On Tuesday, after appearing to be at full strength against USC, Mayer labeled himself as “probably very close to 100%.” The Irish can breathe a sigh of relief with Mayer in the lineup with five regular season games remaining, starting Saturday night at home against North Carolina.

A five-star recruit out of Covington (Ky.) Catholic High School near Cincinnati, Mayer has always operated under high expectations at Notre Dame. He won’t be draft-eligible until 2023, but he is already projected to be a first-round pick. Between now and then, he Will Likely continue to ascend through the Notre Dame record books, etching his name in with the likes of John Carlson, Ken MacAfee and Tyler Eifert.

Mayer is also likely to keep drawing attention as one of the best in college football; he was already named to the John Mackey Award Watch List, given annually to the best tight end in the country.

Mayer said he’s gotten better at blocking out the outside noise and matured into a veteran player who leads by example.

“I’m not the vocal leader,” Mayer said. “But one thing, I do see myself as a leader, where the actions that I do, people will follow me.”

Clemson gives raises, contract extensions to staff

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson’s board of trustees approved raises for special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach Mike Reed and defensive tackles coach Nick Eason.

Reed and Eason also received one-year extensions keeping them tied to the Tigers through Jan. 31, 2026.

Reed, who’s been with the Tigers since 2013, had his yearly salary increased $50,000 to $800,000. Eason, the former Clemson standout defensive lineman, joined the staff this past season. He also had his compensation upped by $50,000 to $800,000.

Seven other assistants were given one-year extensions by the trustees’ compensation committee, but without a raise in salary.

Co-defensive coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn had their contracts extended through Jan. 31, 2026.

Defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall, tight ends coach Kyle Richardson, offensive line coach Thomas Austin, running backs coach C.J. Spiller and wide receivers coach Tyler Grisham all got one-year extensions through Jan. 31, 2025.

New offensive coordinator Garrett Riley last month received a three-year contract at $1.75 million per season.

Clemson will pay its 10 on-field assistants $7.475 million this season, an increase of $925,000 from the total for 2022.

The Tigers went 11-3 last season, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

South Carolina’s Beamer suspends three freshmen from program

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said freshmen Monteque Rhames II, Anthony Rose and Cameron Upshaw were suspended from the football program.

There was no reason given for the suspensions in the school’s statement Friday. Online records showed Rhames, 18, was booked last night and was being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on charges of carrying weapons on school property and obstructing justice.

“Our student-athletes know what is expected of them,” Beamer said. “They know that both the university and the football program will hold them accountable for their actions and decisions.”

None of the three have played for the Gamecocks.

Rose is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back from Miami who enrolled in January 2022 and redshirted this season. Rhames and Upshaw were part of South Carolina’s latest recruiting class and enrolled last month.

Rhames is a 6-5, 235-pound defensive lineman from Sumter and Upshaw is a 6-2, 193-pound safety from Perry, Florida.