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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Set to Face Several Top WRs

June 13, 2022

Good receivers are hard to find. Great receivers can change how teams have to defend you.

Dan Orlovksy summed it up with this tweet. There are 32 teams in the NFL and only 12 have true number ones (by his estimation).

They are just as scarce in college football. Every program plays 12 regular season games and most teams only have to deal with dominant receivers in a few games a year. We already know that Notre Dame will have to go up against at least three in 2022. The gauntlet they’ll have to face at receiver is especially tough. 

It starts in week one with Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba. They then have to see UNC’s Josh Downs for the second year in a row. They close out the regular season with reigning Biletnikoff award winner Jordan Addison, who transferred from Pitt to USC. Those three could easily be the finalists for the Biletnikoff in 2022 and in each of those games, Al Golden and Marcus Freeman are going to need a specific plan to try and limit or contain them.

It will be even more difficult when they face Ohio State and USC because they have the talent to potentially have 1a and 1b, but at the moment, their WR1s is where the coaches will likely focus when drawing up a game plan.

Last year Notre Dame faced three of the best receivers in college footbal when they had to go up against Purdue’s David Bell, USC’s Drake London, and Downs. They did a solid job in all of those games with the Irish winning all three.

Bell averaged only 9.1 yards per reception.

London had 15 catches, but only seven went for first downs and zero were touchdowns.

Downs…did his thing with 10 catches for 142 yards. The Irish did keep him out of the end zone, though, after he had scored eight touchdowns in UNC’s first seven games. They were also the first team to hold quarterback Sam Howell to under a 107.9 NFL quarterback rating when targeting Downs (79.6).

How the Irish defense defends Smith-Njigba, Downs, and Addison this year will have a massive impact on whether or not they win those matchups this fall, but they might not be the only three who Notre Dame’s staff will have long discussions about while preparing for Saturday.

Boston College’s Zay Flowers’s numbers dipped last year and a lot of that had to do with quarterback Phil Jurkovec only playing six games. Flowers still managed 17 yards per reception and new offensive coordinator John McNulty has said that Flowers is going to see a lot more targets this season than he has the previous two. He is one of the best deep threats in the country.

BYU also has an emerging star in Puka Nacua. He originally signed with Washington and was an elite prospect in high school, but left UW to transfer closer to home. He broke out as their top receiver last season by averaging 18.7 yards per reception and it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him join the conversation as one of the best receivers in college football.

Noticeably absent from this list is any receiver from Clemson. They don’t have a proven number one on their roster and it’s one reason why their offense took a significant step backwards in 2021. They do have four former top-100 ranked receivers so they don’t lack candidates who have the potential to emerge for them this fall.

Wherever these players are lined up, Notre Dame has to have a plan to deal with them. They executed their plans well against those number ones last season and that was with first round pick Kyle Hamilton not playing in two of those games.

If they can have similar results this season, then the chances of Notre Dame going undefeated in those matchups improves greatly.

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