Why should this nominee be considered for the Broyles Award?
Brian Mason has transformed the Notre Dame special teams units in just his first season with the program. Under his guidance, the Irish have blocked six punts on the season, a modern day school record. Mason has turned the Irish special teams into a huge weapon in both the battle of field possession and in shifting the momentum of games. With Mason leading the way, Notre Dame has seen improvement across the board, with the recruitment and development of punter Jon Sot, place kicker Blake Grupe and kickoff specialist Zac Yoakam. In addition, the punt return unit, led by returner Brandon Joseph, has also seen great improvement under Mason. Mason’s impact on the program is paying huge dividends.
Coach's Past Performance
Spent the previous five seasons at Cincinnati, he was the Special Teams Coordinator from 2018-21 and was the Director of Recruiting in 2017.
He was named a finalist for 2021 Special Teams Coach of the Year by FootballScoop.com.
Mason’s units were key to Cincinnati recording the first 13-0 mark in school history in 2021, as the Bearcats won a second-consecutive American Athletic Conference Championship and advanced to the College Football Playoff Semifinals at the Cotton Bowl.
In 2021, UC tied for the most blocked kicks in the nation with six, while ranking seventh in the country with three blocked punts.
Also in 2021, UC ranked first in the AAC and No. 3 in the nation in punt return defense (1.53) and No. 2 in the AAC and No. 22 overall in net punting (41.7).
In 2020, Cincinnati finished 9-1, won the AAC Championship and played in the Peach Bowl – UC’s first New Year’s Six Bowl since 2009.
The Bearcats finished atop the 2019 AAC ranks in scoring defense for the second-straight season and ranked among the league’s top three in rushing and total defense.
In 2018, the UC defense led the American in rushing defense, scoring defense and total defense and ranked among the Top-15 in the NCAA FBS in all three categories.
Punter James Smith, a three-time All-American Athletic Conference selection, was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award in 2018 and also earned spots on two All-America squads.
UC led the American Conference and finished second in the NCAA FBS in net punting.
In addition to his on-field success with the Bearcats, Mason oversaw a recruiting operation which helped UC sign two-consecutive highly-rated recruiting classes ranked at the top of the American Athletic Conference.
In his recruiting role, Mason oversaw the day-to-day operations of the recruiting program including database management, organizing all official and unofficial visits, coordinating special events associated with recruiting, managing the current roster and recruiting budgets as well as administering all recruiting paperwork including transcripts and scholarship documents.
Team Record and Standings
The Irish are 6-3 on the season, with wins over then-No. 16 BYU, No. 16 Syracuse and No. 4 Clemson. Additionally, Notre Dame has been the only team to knock off currently-ranked No. 14 North Carolina. Notre Dame is currently ranked No. 20 in the Associated Press poll and No. 25 in the AFCA Coaches poll. After starting the season 0-2, including a 21-10 loss at No. 2-ranked Ohio State, Notre Dame has won six of its last seven games, including three-straight.
Notre Dame special teams units rank atop the FBS standings in blocked kicks (6), blocked kicks allowed (0), blocked punts (6) and blocked punts allowed (0). The Irish rank 26th in the FBS in net punting at 40.90 per punt, and rank 30th in punt returns at 10.32 per punt return. Notre Dame’s kick return defense ranks 34th at 17.91 yards allowed per return.
Individual Player Stats
Punter Jon Sot, a candidate for the Ray Guy Award and the Burlsworth Trophy, has been outstanding when called upon. He is averaging 43.7 yards per punt, dropping 18 of his 39 punts inside the 20. Sot has recorded a season-long punt of 75 yards and has 10 punts that have spanned more than 50 yards. Defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey ranks second in the FBS with three blocked punts. Punt returner Brandon Joseph ranks 15th in the FBS with his 9.9 yards per return. Kicker Blake Grupe, a candidate for the Lou Groza Award, has made 10-of-14 field goals, including a long from 47 yards. Linebacker Prince Kollie ranks fourth in the FBS with his punt return for a touchdown following of Notre Dame’s punt blocks.