Bo Bauer is back.
The Notre Dame middle linebacker announced on Instagram Monday night he will return to the Fighting Irish roster for a fifth season in South Bend.
Bauer has been waiting for his moment to be a starter on the Notre Dame defense, and he almost assuredly has it now. Former starting middle linebacker Drew White has not yet officially announced his decision to depart the program, but he essentially revealed the Fiesta Bowl was his last game at Notre Dame in multiple press conferences.
Bauer had 47 total tackles, five of which went for a loss, despite starting just one game this past season. He has 111 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions in his career. He also has six passes defended, five of which came this past season. He really showed his mettle on passing downs for the Notre Dame defense.
With Bauer returning, Notre Dame retained four of seven starters from last year’s front seven. Defensive end Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, White and defensive tackle Kurt Hinish (who exhausted his eligibility) declared for the NFL Draft. Head coach Marcus Freeman and company convinced Bauer and defensive ends Isaiah Foskey and Justin Ademilola as well as defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola to stay. Linebackers Jack Kiser and JD Bertrand were going to stay all along.
White played 511 snaps at middle linebacker last season. Bauer played 354. Middle linebacker isn’t necessarily an every-down position, but it’ll be interesting to see how much of a hold Bauer has on the spot in 2022. The depth chart is thin behind him. He has already proven he can be a formidable force in obvious passing situations. Now, he’ll be tasked with stopping the run much more often.
Bauer’s signature moment of his career to date came against USC this past October. He picked off a pass from Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis and returned it 79 yards only for Slovis to tackle him inside the 4-yard line on an impressive rundown. Bauer still flipped the game in Notre Dame’s favor with the play. USC only trailed by a touchdown at the time. The interception took Trojan points off the board and handed the Irish a chip shot field goal.
The vision for Bauer is to have more plays like that in 2022. And they don’t have to be near-touchdown interception returns. Tackles for loss, sacks, big stops early in defensive possessions to get the opposition behind the chains and late in possessions to get off the field. Notre Dame is returning a veteran who has every shot of being a team captain during his final year of eligibility.