Provo • All-American linebacker Manti Te'o isn't the only Notre Dame football player with strong ties to the state of Utah.
The Irish's roster also includes Provo's Chris Badger, a safety from Timpview High who is redshirting this year after returning last summer from an LDS Church mission to Ecuador. Badger is the first returned Mormon missionary to ever play for Notre Dame and just the second or third Utahn (records aren't clear).
"I love it here," Badger said Wednesday as Notre Dame continued preparations to host BYU. "I feel really great about the place I am at."
Although he won't play unless it is in an emergency situation, Badger said a lot of his family members are making the trip from Provo and all around the country for the 1:30 p.m. game at Notre Dame Stadium, including his father, Rodney Badger, a University of Utah School of Medicine professor and doctor.
"I definitely love the tradition and legacy of Notre Dame," Chris Badger said Wednesday, recounting why he accepted a scholarship offer from the Irish and turned down BYU, Utah, Stanford, Oregon, LSU and Florida State, among others. "There's a special feeling when you are here."
Badger, who committed to Notre Dame when Charlie Weiss was the coach, is also excited to see a few of his former Timpview teammates, including BYU defensive end Bronson Kaufusi and safety Craig Bills.
He graduated early from Timpview and enrolled at Notre Dame in January 2010 so he could participate in spring ball (he had eight tackles in the spring game) before leaving on his mission that summer.
While in Ecuador, Badger was robbed at gunpoint during one of his preparation days, and the thief made off with his Notre Dame running shoes and other ND apparel. He had to walk home in his socks.
Now he's back as a second-semester freshman, thinking about majoring in anthropology and hoping to attend medical school.
"I was in a win-win situation," Badger said of his choice to attend Notre Dame. "I had a lot of great options, like BYU and Utah and that. Wherever I chose to go, I was going to be happy."
His prospects of making the two-deep chart next year, maybe even starting, are good because two of the four current two-deep safeties, Zeke Motta and Chris Salvi, are graduating.
Recapping the defense's poor performance against Oregon State, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall made a rare acknowledgement Monday that the players might have been reading too many of their press clippings.
"Concentration, precision and really, execution [were lacking]," he said. "And maybe a little overconfidence defensively, from all the accolades. I think there was a little edge that was missing."
Irish QB Golson cleared
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson was cleared to play Wednesday after completing protocol for a concussion suffered last Saturday against Stanford. Golson, a redshirt freshman, will likely start against the Cougars, although backup Tommy Rees still might see action. Rees has played in each of the Irish's last five games.
BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman said three days of watching film has shown him that Notre Dame's defense, which has not allowed an offensive touchdown in a month, does not have a weakness.
"I don't think we overmatch them at any position," Doman said. "I don't know that we have any particular mismatch. ... We have found some things that we think will help us against what they do defensively, and hopefully we have hit it on the head and we will be able to have some success with the things we have chosen to do."