Notre Dame Football: Chris Badger

Badger at home at BYU, happy to return

November, 19, 2013
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The irony of the whole situation had yet to dawn upon Chris Badger early this week.

Here the BYU safety was readying for the Cougars' trip to Notre Dame Stadium for Senior Day, a celebration that very well could have included him in it had he chosen a different path. He will still be there Saturday; he just won't be honored. But he will be playing in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus for the first time -- albeit against the Irish, not for them.

"To be honest, that's funny you brought that up," Badger told of the Senior Day scenario. "I hadn't thought of that."

Badger's wild ride has taken him from Provo, Utah, to Notre Dame and back, with a two-year mission in Ecuador in between. Four years after committing to the Irish as a three-star prospect, Badger, who turns 22 Wednesday, is a redshirt freshman thrust into playing time for the Cougars, a squad he joined a mere two months ago.

"Obviously going back that could've been a path I could've taken," Badger said. "But just looking back, I'm so happy with my choice to join a mission. Being able to help the people in Ecuador was the greatest thing I'll ever do in my life. I learned so much about it and grew so much as a person and now I still have three more years of football after this year, and I'm excited to do some great things."

Badger has played mostly on kickoff coverage and on both return teams, appearing at safety in two game, including this past Saturday's rout of Idaho State. He has six total tackles and half of a tackle for a loss.

After enrolling early in 2010, Badger had put off school and football for a two-year Mormon mission. He redshirted last season with the Irish upon his return, and coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday that the Irish's defensive system not exactly being tailored to the strengths of Badger played a role in him not seeing the field. Badger was recruited to Notre Dame by former coach Charlie Weis.

"They were looking for more of a middle of the field safety that could run the alley from the middle of the field," Kelly said. "We're a two-deep safety team that we like to play off the hash a lot more. So I think that it was probably a better fit from that standpoint because that's how they play, BYU. They're not a huge Cover-2 team."

Kelly was the first of two factors to fall in Badger's favor this season, with the fourth-year Irish coach clearing Badger to leave for an opponent on Notre Dame's schedule. The NCAA then approved a waiver in the middle of September for Badger to play immediately since he was returning home to tend to a family situation. Badger now commutes to school from home.

"More than being a really great, smart coach, he's a great person and he cares about his players," Badger said of Kelly. "He's easy to talk to, and he wants the best for everybody. I just have the utmost respect for coach Kelly. He's a class act. I'm really grateful for him to release me so I can be here closer to home and be able to make this transition here."

Kelly said his defense has taken measures to ensure that Badger will not be able to share any of the family secrets with his new teammates this weekend, adding that he was not really concerned about it.

Badger is not so sure he can be of much help anyway, saying he has little to add that is not already available on film.

He is looking forward to seeing some old friends like Danny Spond, Joe Romano and Joe Schmidt, and he knows this visit will present different challenges, ones that come with making his debut on his old home field.

"I love to play football, and what better place than Notre Dame, where there's so much tradition?" Badger said. "And being there, knowing what it's like, it just makes it that much better, especially being able to see people and visit with them and all the relationships that I built when there with people from school, or the football team, or from my local church congregation. Being able to visit with them Friday night or Saturday before the game and then being able to play on that stage, it's exciting. It's going to be a really great experience."

Badger immediately eligible at BYU

September, 19, 2013
Former Notre Dame safety Chris Badger was granted immediate eligibility Thursday by the NCAA, a little more than three weeks after Badger transferred to BYU.

Badger, a Provo, Utah native, filed the appeal for a waiver because of a reported personal hardship.

He signed with the Irish in 2010 and enrolled in January before taking a two-year mission in Ecuador for the LDS Church.

Badger, a sophomore, was buried on the depth chart at Notre Dame entering the season and did not figure to see significant action.

The Cougars actually travel to South Bend, Ind., for the Irish's senior day on Nov. 23.

Badger to transfer to BYU

August, 28, 2013
Notre Dame safety Chris Badger will transfer to BYU, his father, Rod, told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Badger will file an appeal for a waiver to play immediately with the Cougars because of a personal hardship.

The Provo, Utah native signed with the Irish in 2010 and enrolled in January, but he left school for more than two years to participate in a mission in Ecuador for the LDS Church.

Badger would have been a sophomore at Notre Dame this season, though he was buried on the depth chart and did not figure to see significant action.

Elsewhere, Irish coach Brian Kelly told the Chicago Tribune that freshman quarterback Malik Zaire has mononucleosis, though he may be in the recovery stages.

Pre-spring breakdown: Secondary

March, 19, 2013
Our series wraps up with the defensive backs.

Starters returning: Bennett Jackson, KeiVarae Russell, Matthias Farley
Players returning: Austin Collinsworth, Lo Wood, Nicky Baratti, Elijah Shumate, Jalen Brown, Josh Atkinson, Eilar Hardy, C.J. Prosise, Chris Badger, John Turner
Players departing: Zeke Motta, Jamoris Slaughter, Dan McCarthy, Chris Salvi
Newcomers: Max Redfield, Devin Butler, Cole Luke, Rashad Kinlaw

The breakdown: The secondary was the biggest concern going into 2012, and it ended up becoming the biggest surprise. Though the group had a night to forget on Jan. 7 in Miami against Alabama, three starters are back from a stingy unit that suddenly finds itself with another numbers problem -- this time a good one.

Russell, a converted freshman running back, did better than anyone could have ever imagined after rising to the No. 1 spot when Wood went down with a preseason Achilles tear. Jackson lived up to the high preseason words of the coaching staff, finishing third on the team in tackles (65) and adding four picks. Farley, another converted player who made his first appearance in the secondary on a college field (after a redshirt season), adapted well as a tackler. He put in all the necessary post-practice work with safeties coach Bob Elliott to emerge as a strong starter after Slaughter -- who is done after being denied a sixth year by the NCAA -- went down with an Achilles tear of his own. Like Russell, Farley has three years left at Notre Dame.

Wood, a projected starter last season before getting hurt, enters the mix this season as well, though how much he'll be able to do this spring remains to be seen. Collinsworth saw extensive action at safety as a sophomore but underwent both shoulder and back surgeries that forced him to sit out all of last season. He is expected to be back this spring. He will surely give Notre Dame another proven body in the defensive backfield.

Baratti saw plenty of time on defense in his first college season, and you can expect to see him on the field often in one capacity or another. He played often on special teams last season too. Shumate was essentially the Irish's nickelback after converting from safety, so it will be interesting to see where he ends up given the numbers situation back there in 2013.

Among newcomers, Redfield has received the most attention, as he was the No. 23 overall player from the Class of 2013, according to ESPN. He will not enroll until the summer.

Irish Lunch Links

February, 21, 2013
Suits Finale!
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- This edition of the BYU-Notre Dame series was born on the day the Cougars declared their independence, which will turn two years old when these teams square off Saturday.

The ties run a bit deeper than the pair's lack of conference membership in football, though. The private, religious affiliations of each adds another layer for an Irish squad that boasts a small handful of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"All of them have felt very comfortable in the community," coach Brian Kelly said. "I don't know what the dynamic is, but it just seems that there's a reaching out that has taken place in their time here, and it's made it, I think, a great transition for those kids."

Manti Te'o, Kona Schwenke and Chris Badger all are LDS members, with Badger returning to Notre Dame this year following his two-year Mormon mission.

Much has been made of Te'o's path to Notre Dame over BYU and childhood favorite USC, a decision he says he had prayed on. His cousin, Jray Galea'i, is a student assistant with the Cougars after chronic injuries forced him to quit his role as a defensive back.

"We wanted Manti," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "We thought he was an excellent player. It was a heavy recruiting race. He had an official visit, saw everything that we had to offer, and really didn’t want BYU. Certainly our evaluation as a player was right; he’s very good."

Notre Dame, in some ways, has provided a template for football independence for BYU, which, in some ways, fashions itself as the Notre Dame of the West. The Irish and the Cougars announced their series upon the latter's defection from the Mountain West Conference, with Notre Dame scheduled to host BYU again next season before they each host a pair of games between 2014-20, with the dates to be determined.

His team continuing its pursuit of perfection, Te'o's one and only shot against BYU won't add to the intrigue Saturday -- despite the irony behind his analogy.

"It's just game seven," Te'o said. "I think I said this before: When you start to do things differently than you've done in the past, then bad things start to happen."

Irish lunch links

August, 20, 2012
Points for creativity, Melky.

News and notes as camp approaches

August, 3, 2012
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It looks like Austin Collinsworth may be the only player who will not be taking the LaBar Practice Complex fields Saturday when Notre Dame opens fall camp.

Coach Brian Kelly said Friday that the junior safety, who underwent surgery this spring to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, would likely be out until late October or early November, given the roughly six-month recovery timetable he was given. Collinsworth has played each of his first two years with the Irish and still has a redshirt year remaining.
  • Kelly said that redshirt sophomore wide receiver Luke Massa (knee) is limited but cleared to do a lot of work. Converted sophomore tight end Troy Niklas (head) is 100 percent after missing the end of the spring.
  • The right side of the offensive line will be tinkered with throughout the spring, as Mike Golic Jr. and Nick Martin battle for the starting guard spot while Christian Lombard appears to be the No. 1 tackle. Needing three or four players on the right side to be interchangeable, Kelly said that Martin could see some time at tackle with Tate Nichols as well.
  • The defense will use five inside linebackers with Carlo Calabrese suspended for the opener against Navy, rotating in Kendall Moore, Joe Schmidt and Jarrett Grace.
  • Kelly is "very pleased" with the off-field progress of Everett Golson, who admitted to struggling academically when first arriving on campus in the spring of 2011.
  • Kyle Brindza sounds like the man to beat for kickoffs, while Nick Tausch seems to have a leg up on field goals and extra points: "I think going through the spring Nick Tausch showed himself to be a pretty consistent kicker for us, PAT, field goal," Kelly said. "I think we're still working with him and Brindza. Kyle has shown a strength, as you know with the ball moving up to the 35yard line now. We feel that both are capable. But Kyle's a little bit stronger and may be able to kick that thing out of the back of the end zone every time. So we'll continue to work on that. But moving forward, I think Nick had a very good spring for us. We feel confident in his ability. Kyle is right there at the waiting. I think we've got two really good kickers at that position."
  • Freshman receiver Davonte' Neal will wear jersey No. 19. Freshman running back recruit KeiVarae Russell has been converted to cornerback, giving the Irish six scholarship corners. Russell will wear jersey No. 6. The rest of the freshmen jersey numbers remain unchanged from this list.
  • Redshirt freshman receiver DaVaris Daniels switched from jersey No. 16 to No. 10. Class of 2010 recruit and current Notre Dame freshman safety Chris Badger, back from his two-year Mormon mission, will wear No. 16.
  • Kelly said that Notre Dame would have only recruited Penn State players -- who, in light of NCAA sanctions, are eligible to transfer without restriction and can play for a new school in 2012 -- had they de-committed and publicly expressed their desire to transfer.
Notre Dame's problem in the secondary this spring centered around its lack of numbers at cornerback. The Irish will have no such problems this fall at safety, but the news that safety Austin Collinsworth may miss the season is a big blow to the deep unit.

In addition to his work on special teams, Collinsworth was turning into a valuable piece in the secondary, and he figured to see plenty of time there when Notre Dame went into its nickel formations. Starter Jamoris Slaughter is as versatile a player as the Irish defense has, and the team even tried Slaughter at corner a bit this spring to help that green unit, which would have allowed for even more playing time for Collinsworth.

That scenario is likely out of the picture now with Collinsworth probably out for 2012. (And with the rising junior having yet to take a redshirt season, it is likely the Irish would not rush his return near the end of the season and burn another year of eligibility.) Zeke Motta, the starter alongside Slaughter, is more than capable. And, as mentioned above, the unit is awfully deep, though inexperienced.

Bringing back Dan McCarthy for a fifth year has proved to be a great move in hindsight, as he and former walk-on Chris Salvi look like the best bets to move into Collinsworth's role. In addition, the Irish return Eilar Hardy and likely welcome back Chris Badger from his Mormon mission. And, of course, their 2012 recruiting class is loaded at the position, with Nick Baratti, C.J. Prosise, Elijah Shumate and John Turner expected to arrive this weekend.

Numbers are not an issue at safety for the Irish. But experience is, and playing time is now up for grabs with Collinsworth sidelined.

Irish Lunch Links

March, 6, 2012
Happy Big East tournament to all.
Chris Badger returned from his two-year Mormon mission Friday, the first step toward his return to a Notre Dame football team he may hardly recognize.

Badger, a safety who enrolled in the spring semester of 2010, has not yet seen any of the 16 wins or 10 losses the Irish have notched under coach Brian Kelly the past two seasons. And he has yet to meet his new position coach, Bob Elliott, who was hired from Iowa State this offseason to coach the safeties.

But the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Badger, as the South Bend Tribune's Eric Hansen writes, was hardly vacationing these past two years in Ecuador. He worked 70-plus hours each week, waking up at 5:30 every morning to begin workouts he performed to stay in shape for when he returned to Notre Dame, which released him from his scholarship during the mission so that he could transfer with no penalty if he wished to.

But that won't be the case.
"The one thing that didn't change while I was gone was my feeling that Notre Dame was a match made in heaven," Badger said, adding, "When I came on my recruiting visit, I remember praying and receiving a revelation that this is where I need to be, and where I can make a difference, and really become a great player, a great person and a great student. I feel even more strongly that way now."

The Provo, Utah, native was robbed three times during his mission, including once at gunpoint, Hansen reports. Badger learned Spanish and interacted with the locals about faith. He plans to return one day, but his focus right now is on his return to the field.
"It's to win Notre Dame a national championship," he said. "I'm very serious about that. And I want to be a starter and an All-American."

Notre Dame recruiting needs

January, 26, 2012
With national signing day less than a week away, here's a look at what Notre Dame needs from its 2012 recruiting class:

Running backs: The reliable Cierre Wood has one more year left, and the answers behind him remain a mystery. We have not seen nearly enough of George Atkinson III or Cam McDaniel to know how they will turn out, and who knows where Theo Riddick will line up once the 2012 season kicks off? Help is on the way, however, in the form of William Mahone (Youngstown, OH/Austintown Fitch) and KeiVarae Russell (Everett, Wash./Mariner), ESPNU's No. 16 and No. 26 running backs, respectively. Throw in USC transfer Amir Carlisle, and things are looking bright in the Irish backfield moving forward.

Wide receivers: You can't expect to replace Michael Floyd, who re-wrote the school record books. But the drop-off after Floyd is noticeable, and finding targets for the plethora of quarterbacks on the roster is a must. Fortunately for the Irish, they may have those coming in Justin Ferguson (Pembroke Pines, Fla./Flanagan), Deontay Greenberry (Fresno, Calif./Washington Union) and Chris Brown (Hanahan, S.C./Hanahan) — ESPNU's 14th, 17th and 66th best receivers from this class, respectively.

Cornerbacks: Two new starters will take the field next year. Bennett Jackson and Lo Wood saw playing time as reserves this past season, but the unit is pretty thin, with the inexperienced Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown behind them. ESPNU No. 9 cornerback Tee Shepard (Fresno, Calif./Washington Union) enrolled early and could provide immediate help, but depth could be an issue at this position.

Safety: Speaking of the secondary, Notre Dame will have to replace captain Harrison Smith and, soon enough, co-starters Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter, too. Austin Collinsworth could be a starter next season, and Eilar Hardy figures to see the field after redshirting this past season. ESPNU No. 14 safety Elijah Shumate (Ramsey, N.J/Don Bosco), No. 22 C.J. Prosise (Woodberry Forest, Va./Woodberry Forest) and No. 62 John Turner (Indianapolis/Cathedral) are on the way, as is No. 87 athlete Nicky Baratti (Spring, Texas/Klein Oak). Chris Badger returns from a Mormon mission, too.

Irish Lunch Links

December, 5, 2011
I was at the Meadowlands for Giants-Broncos in 1998. That was a victory. Yesterday wasn't.


The latest from Gustin at The Opening
ESPN 300 athlete Porter Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills) took time out to talk recruiting and more with WeAreSC's Garry Paskwietz on Tuesday at The Opening.


Friday, 8/29
Saturday, 8/30