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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Receivers Developing, Building Trust

April 17, 2023
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A year ago, Notre Dame had major question marks at receiver as depth and overall experience were significant concerns coming out of the spring. 

Fast forward a year, the Irish still have questions that need to be answered, but Notre Dame has quickly found depth under receivers coach Chansi Stuckey. Sure, Notre Dame’s receiver room isn’t dripping with experience, but it’s at the point where the room can sustain graduate transfer Kaleb Smith retiring from football and experiment with a potential move to defensive back for Lorenzo Styles. 

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman has seen the growth in real-time as the Irish are set to wrap up spring football on Saturday.

“Just development,” Freeman said when asked what he’s seen from the receivers. “Precision. It is exact details and what happens when you're precise and you’re exact in your alignments and the route running. Now there's a trust built between a quarterback and the wideouts. We've gotten tremendously better over 11 practices. At times [our quarterbacks] are waiting for them to get open before they throw it instead of trusting and knowing exactly where that wideout’s going to be. And so, they have to continue to develop.” 

Offensive coordinator Gerad Parker echoed Freeman’s statements as he’s seen development come from more than a few players, including Chris Tyree, who has worked in the slot after playing running back during his first three years on campus. 

“I think the development of Chris Tyree is certainly something that's going to be a factor for us as he learns how to play that position,” explained Parker. “Tobias (Merriweather) has taken the necessary steps. JT (Jayden Thomas), as he continues to work, what it means to be able to play every down and really force himself to be in shape to do that, has really taken steps.” 

Returning Receiver 2023 Stats 

NAME RECEPTIONS YARDS AVG LONG TD
Lorenzo Styles 30 340 11.3 54 1
Jayden Thomas 25 361 14.4 38 3
Chris Tyree 24 138 5.8 21 2
Deion Colzie 9 192 21.3 30 1
Matt Salerno 5 62 12.4 31 1
Tobias Merriweather 1 41 41.0 41 1

*Tyree’s stats were as a running back in 2022

Notre Dame also welcomed three early enrollee receivers to campus in January. Spring football has been a month of essential growth that will benefit all three in the fall despite some natural growing pains adjusting to college football. 

“Coach Stuckey’s done a great job with that room,” Freeman stated. “Those three freshmen are all practicing at a much higher level than when they came in. And so, as you see this progression getting to August, just continue to improve. How do you improve not just your skill set but the exact details of the position? And then that trust is built between the wideouts and the quarterback.”

Another area of growth has come from understanding the playbook and the growth to do more than specific packages. Parker is now able to put more on the plate of his receivers and not have to sub situationally, which only helps the offense. 

“We feel good,” said Parker. “You've got a rack of names there that you start to feel good about being able to play and not have to put them on a call sheet and have to sub so many out and move the pieces so much. You'd rather be able to sit still with them a little bit.” 

And yes, Freeman has seen improvement from practice one to practice 10. Some of it is quarterback Sam Hartman finding chemistry with the receivers while also grasping the playbook better.

In fact, Freeman saw growth in the playbook, execution and trust on one play last week. 

“I want to see progression and show them what progression means,” explained Freeman. “Are you taking drills, are you taking examples from practice one or practice two and improving in practice eight and nine?

“One of those examples was a third-down play in practice six. Sam Hartman versus Cover 2. It was a third down. He’s looking to Tobias on the sideline and they weren’t on the same page. There was a lack of trust between Tobias and Sam and Sam and Tobias. Then practice eight or nine, the exact same situation came up: third down. Exact same defensive call and there was a completion. Why? Because trust is built.” 

When Notre Dame’s spring wraps up in Saturday’s Blue-Gold Game, it’s just the beginning for Parker as he’ll start to evolve the offense after seeing 15 practices. 

“The evolution has been what are we going to cut, what are we going to rename, how are we going to play with different tempos and certain things that allow us to operate maybe differently and then add what our wrinkles are,” said Parker. “So, been proud to add some things that we think are going to improve us and make Notre Dame better and then still staying on who we are, which is to be a tough, physical football team up front. So we've hopefully done those things.”  

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