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Notre Dame Football

Post-Spring Position Outlook | Receiver

May 24, 2021
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Heading into spring ball, the only position group with more questions than receiver was the offensive line. Sure, there is plenty of talent. That talent didn’t translate to much production in 2020, though.

Only one player, Avery Davis, had more than seven catches last season. To pretend that wasn’t a concern would be ridiculous. Notre Dame needed to find answers this spring as to who would step up at receiver. They found some, but are still searching for more heading into the summer.

We know one player who won’t be involved with doing so this fall. Jordan Johnson is gone and announced he was transferring only a couple of days after the spring game. The Blue-Gold game was not a scrimmage where he shined to say the least and it was a microcosm of his only year with the program.

Even if he had stuck around, the odds of him being an answer for the Irish were slim.

We know that they can count on Davis. After showing up with some big plays last fall, he looks like he is going to be a bigger threat this season. His numbers should go up in 2021, but some of that may depend on some others who will get reps in the slot.

Lawrence Keys will get some run there as well and maybe a lot more than that. He was a featured receiver in the Blue-Gold game with three of his five catches over 20 yards. Keys has flashed before in practices so it’s understandable for some fans to be skeptical, but all we heard about what we didn’t see was that the big plays he made in the highlights were there every day.

It would be significant if he could be an explosive play threat for the Irish this season.

Braden Lenzy was that guy in the latter half of 2019, but an injury didn’t allow that to happen in ‘20. The version we saw of him in spring was closer to him in ‘19 and that’s great news for Notre Dame. Everything we heard was that the big plays were consistent with him as well all spring and if the offense can have two speed receivers they can count on, it changes the dynamic of the offense.

Joe Wilkins is always a bit of a forgotten man because his production has been sporadic. He did come through with a big catch on a slot fade to start the spring game, but the question for him will be whether or not he can find that consistency to win on the boundary. He can and will contribute. Can he do it at the level of a starter?

There was a lot of hope that the receivers from the 2020 recruiting class would break out this spring, but unfortunately that did not happen. It obviously didn’t go that way with Johnson. The other two from that class, Jay Brunelle and Xavier Watts, were both banged up for parts of the spring and weren’t involved much in the spring game.

Brunelle probably had the most exciting play we saw all spring with a one-handed catch and run off of a seed from Tyler Buchner. We’ll see if we can see more of those flashes in fall camp for him and/or Watts to make a move.

Lorenzo Styles Jr. was the early enrollee on campus for spring ball and he impressed as someone who could potentially find a role in the offense this season. How big that will be is going to depend on his summer and if he can make enough plays in camp to force his way onto the field.

It’s very likely that he will play special teams this season. His growth as a player over the coming weeks will determine if it’s more than that.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with Deion Colzie and Jayden Thomas. Both freshmen will be on campus in June and Colzie in particular could be one to watch for this season. In a normal year he’d be sitting and developing, but he arrives at a time when Notre Dame doesn’t have another body type like his.

The x-factor in all of this is Kevin Austin. He didn’t participate this spring, but he’s going to be counted on in a big way this fall. He has WR1 talent. He hasn’t been able to stay on the field to show it, though.

They need him to be healthy. They need him to be consistent. They need him to emerge and at the very least be a compliment to tight end Michael Mayer. T

he starting boundary receiver has led the team in receptions the last five years. That could continue if Austin realizes his potential this fall. If it doesn’t happen, we may see Mayer line up out wide often.

 
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