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Notre Dame Football

Spring Ball Preview | Wide Receiver

February 22, 2022

It shouldn’t take long for new wide receivers coach Chansi Stuckey to get to know his players. There simply aren’t that many of them.

Stuckey has entered a situation where he will only have six scholarship receivers to work with this spring. Reinforcements will come in the summer with a presumably healthy Avery Davis, who is recovering from an ACL injury suffered late last season, and touted true freshman Tobias Merriweather, but that will still leave Notre Dame short on numbers this fall unless they are able to add through the transfer portal.

It’s unfortunate that the dearth of scholarship receivers is a storyline because it takes away from the fact that Stuckey should have some quality talent to work with.

It starts with Lorenzo Styles Jr. who had a breakout performance in the Fiesta Bowl. It’s not hyperbole to say that he has a chance to be special this season and the expectation should be that it’s going to start with a dominant spring. The focus will likely be on refining things for him as a route runner, which is an area he seemed to have improved as the season went on.

With Davis out or limited, Styles will probably get most of his work done in the slot with Matt Salerno working there too. While no one will be predicting big things from the former walk-on this spring, it will be a tremendous opportunity for him to prove he can be a contributor in 2022 if called upon.

The Irish got a healthy season out of Braden Lenzy in 2021, but he didn’t make the same type of splash plays that he did back in 2019. Some of that had to do with the limitations of the offense with more quick game and the lack of connection he had with Jack Coan on deep balls.

Though he had a notable drop in the end zone, there were many times that Coan under threw him. His one deep target he came down with was a touchdown against Cincinnati from Drew Pyne.

Can Tyler Buchner or Pyne find success connecting with him deep? That is going to be an important question for Lenzy this spring as well as if he can be better after the catch.

Joe Wilkins had some nice flashes early in the fall before a knee injury ended his season. He should be back and ready to compete for the open boundary receiver spot. The opportunity is there for him to have a late career surge much like Javon McKinley did and it would help the Irish a lot if that were to happen.

What would be even better for the offense is if Deion Colzie and Jayden Thomas both have great springs. Colzie impressed in the summer as a freshman, but didn’t play that much behind Kevin Austin. Now he’ll have a chance to make a big leap. He was drawing comparisons to Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin before last season and he certainly has the tools to develop into a similar big body target for the Irish.

Don’t sleep on Thomas in terms of making an impact. There was positive buzz about him in practices before the Fiesta Bowl and any talk of him possibly being suited to another position has died down.

The one thing that all of these receivers will have this spring is plenty of reps. Enough that we’ll probably see a healthy amount of 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) and 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end) to lighten the load for them. Even with more of that, there will be plenty of chances for the receivers to shine and Notre Dame needs a few of them to emerge during March and April.

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