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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame WR Joe Wilkins Jr. Confident Following Offseason Talk with Tommy Rees

August 19, 2021

Joe Wilkins Jr. always had the talent. 

The North Fort Meyers (Fla.) native arrived at Notre Dame as a corner, but quickly made the switch to receiver before his freshman year got rolling. 

Wilkins didn’t see much action during his first two seasons on campus, but in 2020, he flashed by recording seven catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. 

Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees knew there was much more in the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder and made that clear following the Rose Bowl. 

"Joe and I had a pretty big heart to heart in the offseason,” Rees stated. “It starts with where does he want to play and view himself? He's a guy that's always had talent and learns it easily. He's a guy that's been flexible in where he can play on the field. 

"We had to get the mentality to start to flip. This offseason, he took a huge jump forward starting back in February until now. He's a guy who is consistent and a guy you can count on." 

Wilkins will be the first to admit that conversation was exactly what he needed to hear from Rees. The conversation likely served as some extra motivation, but Wilkins knowing his offensive coordinator believed in him was even more significant. 

"It was huge for me,” explained Wilkins. “I've kind of been the guy just to get by. I've been in the backseat and did what I had to do just to be a role player and relevant, but I always had people in front of me. 

"For him to sit me down and talk to me, it showed he had the confidence in me, Coach Kelly and my brothers have confidence in me. They know what I can do and they've seen me do it in practice, so now it's time for me to take it to the field on game day." 

The good news for Wilkins is he’s not the only veteran receiver stepping up this August as classmates Kevin Austin Jr., Lawrence Keys III and Braden Lenzy have also made significant jumps. 

“This offense is going to be a lot different than it has been in the past years,” Wilkins said. “We’re explosive. We have playmakers everywhere and I feel like in the past couple of years it was a select couple of playmakers and you go to them when times get tough, but now you don’t know where to look when it’s 3rd and 10 because we can hit you in the field, we can hit you in the boundary, we can hit you with the tight end, we can hit you from a running back in the slot, we can hit from a running back from the backfield. You never know where we’re going to hit you. We have playmakers everywhere.”

Wilkins will share time at the boundary with Austin and there’s confidence both can have a big 2021. 

"I think I can have a really good year. Me and Kevin in the boundary  - we can flip flop and get in. We're both going to play and we can both have a great year." 

And yes, Wilkins is aware many consider Austin a player with elite traits, but that’s not stopping him from competing each day and continuing to cheer for his teammate.

"It’s tough,” Wilkins said of competing with Austin. “Kevin's a special guy. I love Kevin and he's been my best friend since freshman year. I've seen him make plays just like everyone has seen me make plays. What he can do is special and I'm excited for his season." 

Wilkins also knows to get back to the College Football Playoff, the Irish offense will need to make big plays, which they’ve done this month. 

"I'm excited,” said Wilkins. “I feel everything is coming together how we want it to. The receivers are making plays. The tight ends are making plays. Backs are making plays out of the backfield and in the slot. Everyone is making plays. I'm excited."

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