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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

Notre Dame Significantly Boosts Talent in Receiver Room on National Signing Day

December 22, 2022

Notre Dame completed the 2022 regular season with just six healthy scholarship wide receivers on its roster, two of which were fifth-year seniors who could be nearing the end of their time in South Bend. 

Much of this has to do with misses in the 2019 and 2020 classes, neither of which produced a current wide receiver on the roster.

It was pivotal that the Irish bolster one of the most important positions in college football with top-end talent in 2023.

On Wednesday wide receiver coach Chansi Stuckey did just that by signing a four-receiver haul of Jaden Greathouse, Braylon James, Rico Flores and Kaleb Smith — the first three of which are consensus four-star prospects.

“You have a great blend of polish, you have a great blend of upside, you have a great blend of size and speed,” offensive coordinator Tommy Rees said.

The last time the Irish signed three four-star receivers came just two years ago. Notre Dame added Deion Colzie, Lorenzo Styles and Jayden Thomas all in the same class, but the 2023 class will give the Irish the most talented collection of pass-catchers on the same roster in a decade.

Of the last 13 recruiting classes, five of the top-11 rated wide receivers will be in the same room.  No one in the last three classes was a top-100 recruit, but five ranked among the top 150 players according to 247 Sports composite rankings.

Wide Receiver Rankings Since Brian Kelly’s First Full Season in 2011

No. 37 Jordan Johnson, 2020*

No. 57 DaVonte' Neal, 2012

No. 82 Kevin Austin, 2018

No. 93 DaVaris Daniels, 2011

No. 95 Justin Brent, 2014

No. 102 Deion Colzie, 2021

No. 114 Javon McKinley, 2016 

No. 115 Lorenzo Styles, 2021

No. 121 Tobias Merriweather, 2022

No. 125 Braylon James, 2023

No. 133 Jaden Greathouse, 2023

No. 162 Equanimeous St. Brown, 2015

No. 172 Chase Claypool, 2016

No. 187 Corey Holmes, 2014

No. 203 Miles Boykin, 2015

No. 208 Torii Hunter Jr., 2013

No. 215 Braden Lenzy, 2018

No. 221 Rico Flores Jr., 2023

No. 223 George Atkinson III, 2011

No. 280 Will Fuller, 2013

No. 286 Lawrence Keys III, 2018

No. 326 Jayden Thomas, 2021

No. 356 Justin Ferguson, 2012

No. 367 Corey Robinson, 2013

No. 376 Micah Jones, 2018

No. 377 Jalen Guyton, 2015

No. 389 Xavier Watts, 2020*

No. 454 Chris Brown, 2012

No. 472 Jafar Armstrong, 2017

No. 476 Michael Young, 2017

No. 530 Kendall Abdur-Rahman, 2019*

No. 553 Kaleb Smith, 2023

No. 601 Kevin Stepherson, 2016

No. 644 Cam Hart, 2019*

No. 780 Jay Brunelle, 2020*

Bold: Denotes players expected on the roster in 2023.

*Denotes players who left Notre Dame without a reception or switched positions.

Technically, there’s a chance Lenzy is eligible to return for a sixth season, but it’s unclear if that will occur. Either way, the hope is that so much talent will propel the program forward.

“We truly believe that if you can add competition to any room that's only going to whittle out the guys that can't make it and it's going to raise the level of everyone else in the room,” Rees said. “You look at the rooms that have been really successful at that position — Bama a couple of years ago, they have all those first rounders and you have Ohio State where they got all these first rounders.

“They're pushing each other, and that's the culture that we're trying to build.”

Notre Dame also added a graduate transfer on Wednesday in Virginia Tech wide receiver Kaleb Smith (who coincidentally has the same name as the 2023 signee). Even with poor quarterback play this past fall he still snagged 37 catches for 674 yards (18.2 YPC) and three touchdowns, which accounted for nearly ⅓ of his team's overall receiving production in 2022.

“Smith sets a very high floor for the position and he didn’t exactly have elite quarterback play helping him out at VT,” wrote ISD’s Jamie Uyeyama in his film evaluation. “There’s a chance he makes another jump and at the very least he immediately makes the Notre Dame passing game stronger with him on the roster.

Picking up Smith from the Hokies helps, but the Irish still need one or two of the incoming freshmen to compete for playing time next season. 

In the eyes of the coaching staff, that’s exactly what they’ll get from Greathouse and Flores.

“When you look at Greathouse and Reek, they’re pretty polished,” Rees said. “Physically, from a strength standpoint, they can come in and compete. They understand the nuance of running routes and have a natural feel for it.”

James, on the other hand, may take a bit of time to develop into an everyday contributor even if his ceiling is sky-high. Freeman compared him to current freshman Tobias Merriweather, a former blue-chip recruit himself. Both players are long, rangy and fast. 

But Merriweather played just 78 snaps in six games this season. His lone catch was a 41-yard touchdown in the loss to Stanford. For all his talent, he has plenty of room to mature physically. At 6-foot-2 and 191 pounds, James is in a similar boat.

“He has a great frame where you can tell he can add 10 or 15 more pounds and be a physical presence on the outside,” Freeman said. “He has the speed to play out there.”

Kaleb Smith (the 2023 receiver) was the last addition to the class. He may be a three-star prospect, but the coaching staff views the speedy and smooth route runner as a national recruit who just happened to fall under the radar.

“Kaleb Smith, we really started recruiting heavily after the start of the season,” coach Marcus Freeman said, “but the more time you spent with Kaleb and his family, the more you get to know he’s a unique talent who had gone through some injuries, committed early in the process and kind of shut it down. When he decided to open it up, we got a special one.”

The goal going forward will be to add three or four impact receivers every year rather than sporadically, which better describes how Notre Dame has recruited the position over the last decade or so.

But is Stuckey capable of changing the narrative without a built-in advantage? Greathouse, James and Smith each hail from Texas and had pre-established relationships with Stuckey, who coached at Baylor in 2021. 

Ultimately, Freeman and Rees are confident Stuckey can replicate similar results in the future, even if he must rely on a national recruiting base going forward. Notre Dame already owns a commitment from 2024 Chicago-area wide receiver Cam Williams, the No. 57 overall player in the class. 

“[Stucky’s] got that personality where he can kind of walk in and immediately make a connection with somebody regardless of where they're from or their background,” Rees said. “He's pretty impressive when he gets around families. He's just got an infectious way about him that's really positive, really upbeat.”

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