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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame WR Matt Salerno Focused on Deception

August 16, 2022

It was all hands on deck for the Notre Dame receiver room entering preseason camp as the Irish lacked bodies at the position. 

Two weeks into camp, Chansi Stuckey’s unit suffered a significant blow as Avery Davis went down with an ACL injury. To make matters even tougher, sophomore receiver Deion Colzie has been working through a sprained knee. 

It’s far from an ideal situation, but Notre Dame’s receivers aren’t feeling sorry for themselves. They are going to work as it’s what Davis would want. 

"I've already felt a responsibility to step up and help the receiver room,” stated graduate student Matt Salerno. “Obviously devastated about Avery. Zo (Styles) was saying earlier, he (Avery) wouldn't want us moping around and we still have a mission to do, so we're going to do it for him." 

For Salerno, the California native was going to have a role in 2022 before Davis’ injury, but his role got even larger given the circumstances. 

What does that mean for Salerno and the receiver room? Learning and playing multiple positions. 

"We're so short on guys everyone has to play a lot of different positions,” Salerno explained. “Being a fifth-year guy, I know the offensive really well. Just being able to fill in any role that needs someone, play different positions and help out the other guys as well." 

Stuckey has a tough job. The first-year receiver coach has to get more out of his room while also making sure his guys don’t press and try to do more than they are capable of doing. 

In Salerno’s case, Stuckey wants him to play within himself and focus on his strengths. 

“Everyone on our offense will have a role and if everyone is the best version of themselves, we'll be exactly where we need to be,” said Stuckey. “I don't need him trying to be Mike (Mayer) or (Tyler) Buchner, not JT (Jayden Thomas) - this is your role and what you do well. 

"It's our job as coaches to put him in a position to do what he does well and not ask him to do something he probably shouldn't be doing. Having his role and doing what he should be doing - he's going to give his all in everything he does. You looked up and he's going to make some plays." 

So what does Salerno do well? 

Keeps defenders off guard by doing the little things to get separation. 

"I just like to disguise my routes and not let the DB know what's coming,” Salerno stated. “I think just trying to be deceptive and disguise things." 

The 6-foot, 195-pounder will probably be the first to tell you he’s not the athlete of Lorenzo Styles, but that’s fine by Stuckey. 

Stuckey’s coaching philosophy focuses on the details of releases, breaks and simply doing the little things that overcome the defender having more athleticism or speed. 

“Football is one of the only games where you can be on a scale of 1-10 - have an athleticism of two and be a great receiver,” explained Stuckey. “The details allow you to do that. If you lock in on the details and understand why you're breakpoint needs to be this way. Why your toe has to be pointed that way. Why we run this concept vs. this coverage. 

"Everything happens at a 1/100th of a second. If I can gain a 1/100th of a second and understand and process faster, I'll be doing better than this guy because he doesn't know what I'm doing. I know what I'm doing. I'm manipulating him to think one thing while I'm doing another.” 

Salerno isn’t a two athletically, but he’s quickly embraced Stuckey’s focus over the last eight months and it’s allowed him to master his craft. 

"It's really the fundamentals he has a big focus on, especially being a guy that's played in the league,” Salerno said. “He knows what it takes. He's really put a big emphasis on that for us. That's been a huge thing we've all been able to focus on." 

And despite the lack of depth at receiver, Notre Dame could have an x-factor in quarterback Tyler Buchner, who can make plays with his arm and feet. 

"Buchner is obviously a great quarterback,” said Salerno. “It's exciting to have him, especially being a guy like California like me. He's mobile, great arm, so excited to get to work with him." 

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