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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Roster Review | Wide Receiver

February 10, 2023

Notre Dame hasn’t hired a new offensive coordinator yet. Whoever takes the job will know that the offense needs to get more production from their receivers.

The good news is that the group has plenty of talent. The bad news is that it’s mostly young and unproven talent.

Only one player, former walk-on Matt Salerno, has been in the program longer than two years. It’s a group that has size, speed, and overall potential greater than recent years at Notre Dame. The question is, how much of that potential can be realized in 2023?

With that being unknown, it was a smart decision by the staff to bring in Kaleb Smith, the elder, from Virginia Tech as a graduate transfer.

Despite shaky quarterback play, Smith stepped up as the VT’s top target last season. His size (6’2” 220) and ability to get deep (18.2 yards per reception) last season make him a prime candidate to excel playing the boundary receiver position for the Irish. He can win back shoulder and was very good on contested catches last season.

At the very least he’s a nice piece to add to the room and at most he could be their WR1 this fall.

He’ll be competing with Deion Colzie who had a very slow start to the 2022 season after suffering a knee injury in camp. It looked like he might not contribute at all at one point. He surprised some people with several clutch third down catches and he could have a much larger role in ‘23.

We know Jayden Thomas is going to have a big role. He’s in a much different spot than he was a year ago and became a key component in the offense as a receiver and blocker. He’s a mismatch in the slot with his size and maybe the strongest route runner on the team. He definitely had flashes that suggest he has star potential.

It all feels like he is ready for a massive breakout this year.

Last year was supposed to be the breakout for Lorenzo Styles, but after starting the season as the most targeted receiver on the team, there was a clear lack of confidence in him catching the football (his six drops were half of the total of the entire team).

He was targeted 35 times in the first seven games for a reason, though. His speed and ability to make plays after the catch is unique on the roster. His 260 yards after the catch led the team by a wide margin.

The goal should be to help him find his confidence again. It would be a big development if he could bounce back to the player everyone projected him to be heading into 2022.

There may not be a more anticipated player to watch on offense this spring than Tobias Merriweather. Injuries set him back from making more of a contribution in the second half of the season, but his talent was evident on his 41-yard touchdown grab versus Stanford.

There’s an opportunity for him to take a big step this year with a lot more reps and another year working with Chansi Stuckey. The sky's the limit on his potential.

Salerno announced he is returning and he is a bit of a forgotten man in the mix because he mostly was used as a blocker in the run game. He did that job well, though. He also had some timely catches and should have a similar role this season.

That’s it for the “veterans”. That’s not a lot of experience and production with that group, which is why the freshmen wide receivers could have chances to make some noise as well.

Braylon James might need some time to refine his game as a receiver before making a big splash for the Irish, but his raw talent is undeniable. He has the highest upside out of the signees and is on campus as an early enrollee.

Jaden Greathouse and Rico Flores arrive with more polish to their game, although we’ll have to see with their health for the spring. Even if they don’t get a lot of work in March and April, these two have the skills to help out immediately. I’d expect to see both playing in some capacity this fall.

Kaleb Smith, the second of his name on the roster, will probably need some time in the weight room and building up his game before making an impact on offense. He could be a candidate to return kicks and his game speed is impressive.

Notre Dame won’t get to where they want to go without more production from their receivers. Stuckey isn’t working with a group of returning stars, but there are several candidates who could end up having big seasons this fall. It’s more about determining who will be the top guys and the competition should be fierce all year to figure that out.

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