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Notre Dame Football

2023 Wide Receiver Triumvirate Ready to Compete Early after Enrolling in January

March 13, 2023
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Notre Dame finished last season without a wideout eclipsing 500 receiving yards for the first time since the Fighting Irish went 3-9 in 2007. That fall, quarterback Jimmy Clausen and Evan Sharpley combined to throw for 1,990 yards and 12 touchdowns, and Notre Dame finished dead last in total offense in the FBS that year with a disappointing 242.3 yards per game

The offense dynamic changed the following season with the emergence of sophomore Golden Tate, whose production increased by more than 900 yards and 10 touchdowns. A freshman Michael Floyd also arrived on campus to snag 48 catches for 719 yards and seven scores. 

The 2022 offense wasn’t as abysmal as the 2007 edition, but the Irish ranked 60th overall after averaging 396.2 yards per game.

For Notre Dame to become a top-25 offense, it’ll need its passing attack to take a step forward after it ranked 98th overall. Irish coach Marcus Freeman significantly boosted the talent in the quarterback room with the addition of Sam Hartman, but now they’ll need more from the receiver position.

Notre Dame 2022 Wide Receiver Production

Name Receptions Yards Average Touchdowns
Jayden Thomas 25 361 14.4 3
Lorenzo Styles 30 340 11.3 1
Braden Lenzy* 24 309 12.9 3
Deion Colzie 9 192 21.3 1
Matt Salerno 5 62 12.4 1
Tobias Merriweather 1 41 41.0

1

*Braden Lenzy is the only scholarship receiver with at least one catch in 2022 to exit the program.

 

If there’s a jump in production at the position, it will most likely come from Virginia Tech transfer receiver Kaleb Smith and the five returning wideouts. Last fall, Smith caught 37 passes for 674 yards and three touchdowns for the Hokies.

Still, there should be plenty of opportunities for Notre Dame’s three early enrollee receivers to emerge.

Jaden Greathouse, Rico Flores and Braylon James each joined the program in January. Each were ranked inside the top 225 of 247Sports Composite rankings.

Their first few months on campus were turbulent due to the departure of Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, who left for Alabama on Feb. 12. 

Yet, the three freshmen said the team rallied Freeman and their effort and faith in the program never waned.

“Nothing really changed,” James said. “The energy this place has is just so crazy. When Tommy left, it was like, ‘Alright, what's next? We were just kind of foot on the gas. We were still ready to work. Everybody still came in, prepared 100%. We're all focused on the same mission. We all want to reach that same goal, so it really didn't matter who was leading us at that moment.”

Irish wide receiver coach Chansi Stuckey garnered interest from NFL teams in the offseason but chose to remain in South Bend, which greatly pleased the trio.

“He's basically like a second father to me. He's always looking out for me,” James said. “Anything I need, he's always there for me. From a football side of things, he's really knowledgeable. The things that I was learning back home are the things that he’s teaching me and the things that he saw in my game, so I see how he can develop me and make me a better player.”

Greathouse joins the program as one of the most productive wide receivers in the country. In four years at Westlake H.S. in Austin, T.X., he caught 232 receptions, 4,035 yards and 53 touchdowns. 

His game is the most refined of the three early enrollees, and he quickly dove head-first into learning the playbook.  

“There’s a lot of plays we have to sort through, formations, routes,” Greathouse said. “It’s definitely a bit of a struggle trying to learn the playbook. We go through it every single day. We have a meeting after this. We’re always in there constantly trying to obtain more knowledge. It’s definitely a struggle but it’ll help.”

Greathouse had surgery to repair a meniscus injury in December, which could have hampered his development in the spring. Instead, he hit the weight room ready to grind and is already back to his old self well ahead of Notre Dame’s first spring practice on March 22.

“I’ve been 100 percent since the first day I got here working out the whole time,” Greathouse said. “I’m ready to go.”

Flores is also a refined route runner. At 6-1 and 190 pounds, he’s not the biggest receiver and he probably won’t blow by defenders, but he’s the ultimate competitor. His teammates describe him as a “dog.”

“I’m not going to be the flashiest, but I am real savvy when I need to be,” Flores said. “I just go out there and do what I need to do and get the job done and attack every situation I can.” 

Last November, physicians discovered a Talus fracture in his foot, which forced him to wear a cast until he had it removed in Debmer.

He’s rehabbed his foot since and should also be good to go by for spring practice. 

“I’m really close,” Flores said. “I still try to keep strengthening it because it’s going to be hard to get all the way back to 100. I’m out here running routes. It hasn’t been bothering me."

James might be the most athletically gifted receiver on the roster, with the speed and size to soon become a dynamic weapon in the pass game. 

He’s also the least refined of the bunch but developing quickly. 

James weighed 180 pounds in early January. He’s already added 15 pounds, which he says is “mainly muscle.”

Now, his focus turns toward improving his technique. 

“I just want to be a more fluid route runner,” James said. “I feel like every wide receiver's going to say that. It feels like a cliche, but I feel like once I get crispier and once I get snappier with my routes, it’s going to be over for people.”

It’s unclear how much any of the mid-year receivers will contribute in 2023. It’s unlikely any of them will produce like Floyd did in 2007.

Still,  the trio immediately bolstered the talent level inside the Notre Dame wide receiver room, which should force older players to step up their games or risk losing snaps to freshmen hungry for playing time.

The level of competition should only increase once freshman wideout Kaleb Smith (who happens to have the same name at the Virginia Tech transfer) enrolls over the summer and also gets inspired by the history and tradition on campus.

“Every day, I look at the Golden Dome,” Flores said. “I don’t know, it brings something out of me. Just growing up, it was always a dream. Yeah, I want to go to the NFL, but you have to have these steps to go to the NFL. Now that I’m living my dream. Dang, I’m at the right place."

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