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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame “Hit on All Three" Mid-Year Wide Receivers

April 28, 2023
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Jaden Greathouse hauled in just about every pass thrown his way during Saturday’s Blue-Gold Game. The early enrollee wide receiver snagged 11 receptions on 13 targets and led the scrimmage with 118 yards.

When spring ball began a month ago, he was drowning in the playbook and his pre-snap alignment often needed to be adjusted by other wide receivers and coach Chansi Stuckey.

No such help was required inside Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday.

“I feel like the difference is night and day,” Greathouse said. “Learning the plays, trying to get lined up in the correct spots will help me play a lot faster. Coach Stuck has been doing a great job of coaching all of us mid-years to really get used to the speed of the game. Once we got the plays down, we’ll be able to go so much faster.” 

Greathouse finished his high school career as one of the most accomplished wide receivers to ever play in the talent-rich state of Texas. At Westlake H.S. in Austin, he recorded 232 career catches for 4,035 yards, 17.4 YPC and 53 touchdowns.

“JG is just physically ready to play, has great ball skills, has a niftiness in and around, through zones where he can get around guys but has enough power and quickness to beat guys,” Stuckey said. “His ball skills are out of control.”

Rico Flores, Jr. and Braylon James combined for one catch and zero yards in the Blue-Gold Game, but Greathouse isn’t miles ahead of his mid-year wideout compatriots. More than anything, he entered Saturday in a better position to contribute as a member of the Gold team.

Greathouse had quarterback Sam Hartman throwing him the ball and Jayden Thomas and Matt Salerno were his team's only other scholarship wide receivers on the Gold team. 

On the Blue Team, Flores and James were relegated to second-team reps behind Deion Colzie, Tobias Merriweather and Chris Tyree. Additionally, quarterbacks Tyler Buchner and Kenny Minichey struggled behind a shaky offensive line, completing 10 of 25 passes for 51 yards in a 24-0 loss. 

Throughout the spring, Flores and James flashed often enough for the coaching staff to feel they’re capable of contributing this fall. It’s part of why Notre Dame felt comfortable moving Lorenzo Styles to cornerback before the rising junior entered the transfer portal. 

“We hit on all three freshmen,” Stuckey said. “That was huge and that’s super rare. Great job by Chad and our recruiting staff and our whole staff getting those guys here. That helps too. Now you don’t feel such a big loss when he goes—a veteran guy who has speed and has played in a bunch of games. Now, we certainly feel okay. Numbers help. You bring in three extra guys.”

Of the freshman on campus, Flores is the most polished route runner and showed up more physically imposing than anticipated.

“Rico is thicker, way bigger than you thought,” Stuckey said. “He gets here and has huge tree-trunk legs, and his arms, and has a little presence about him. Good size, great route-runner. Attention to detail is immaculate. You have to test sometimes if kids love football: Rico loves football. It’s important to him, and he’s betting everything he has on himself. He loves school. 

“He’s working super hard. Takes care of his business off the field. Comes here, does extra work. Lifts, asks great questions, takes notes. He’s a consummate professional only three months out of high school. The challenge to him is to keep getting better. Don’t let up. Reminding him of why he’s here.”

James’ athleticism is through the roof. 

“Braylon has had the most interesting transition because he put on 15 pounds,” Stuckey said. “He got here and got 15 pounds super quick so his body this spring has been used to carrying that extra weight. He’s the freakiest of them all: 6-2, runs a 4.4, 38-inch vertical. He’s the biggest freakiest of them all, but his body has changed so much.”

What’s the big reason for their immediate success on campus? Setting the standard early.

“The big conversation we had was just because you guys are freshmen, you uphold the standard of the room as well,” Stuckey said. “The expectation is not ‘it’s okay, you’re a freshman.’ No, your expectation is to know what to do and do it at a high level, and everyone expects that. And I think that’s helped him have success in high school, having a little taste of success, and then think ‘Oh, I can do this.’

“Then building. Doing extra work over in the Gug—those guys come over all the time. Fifteen minutes here or there and that’s a bunch of time over a month. Those guys have put in the time and detail. Coach Parker has taken those guys under his wing too. I’m just so glad to have those three kids here.”

Beyond physical gifts, the wideout trio set foot on campus prepared to handle life as a Notre Dame student-athlete. 

“It’s a complement to their coaches, too,” Stuckey said. “The high school programs that they came from allows them to come in and be successful at Notre Dame. The attention to detail, what’s required, the intensity, being coached hard, and reacting the right way because you never know once you get them here.”

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