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Notre Dame Football

Flores and Greathouse Are Not Typical Freshmen

August 11, 2023
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Freshmen wide receivers typically don’t produce much on the field. It’s been that way at Notre Dame and it’s that way pretty much everywhere.

Alabama had three freshmen receivers in 2017 who would later become first round picks. Not one of them had more than 14 catches.

Ohio State had three freshmen receivers ranked in the top-100 from their 2021 recruiting class. They combined for 12 catches during the regular season.

Whether it’s a lack of opportunity or a lack of readiness, young receivers have trouble making an impact early. There’s details with the position that need to be mastered. There’s a playbook that need to be learned. There’s coverages that need to be recognized that many of these players haven’t seen before until they arrived on a college campus.

In the last dozen seasons, no freshman receiver has caught more than 25 passes for the Irish. They’ve never come close to having two freshmen receivers have 10 catches or more on the same team.

That could very well change this fall with freshmen Jaden Greathouse and Rico Flores already in the two-deep for Notre Dame. Those two players have immediately upgraded the depth at the position and receivers coach Chansi Stuckey sees a big difference between the group he has now compared to the one he inherited 18 months ago.

“It's remarkable,” Stuckey said with a smile. “We send out two and a half groups right now, when everyone's healthy, that play at a high level.

“You have Rico and JG that's come in and they're running with the second team right now because of an opportunity and they're taking advantage of that opportunity. They're going against Ben Morrison sometimes, you know Christian Gray is a really good young corner, and Cam (Hart)...and you know they're holding their own. So that's encouraging to see in the slot and outside.”

Both players benefited greatly from getting a head start in the spring as early enrollees. Even before that, they had a head start because of the offenses they played in during high school.

When Stuckey was asked about getting freshmen ready to play in a limited amount of time, he cited the type of offense and coaching style they had in high school as being a big factor in determining how ready a freshman can be to play early.

Flores attended Folsom (California) and Greathouse attended Westlake (Texas). They played in offenses where they weren’t just catching go balls and screens. They played in more advanced offenses, which is atypical for most high school receivers.

“I’d say Folsom prepared me very well with that, because we run all the route trees there, basically,” Flores stated. “And here is kind of the same. Folsom, we were a heavy air offense and now this year, Notre Dame, I feel like we’re trying to transition to passing more. I feel like it’s the same type of deal. College is just faster, so that’s that. But I feel it’s pretty relatively the same.”

It was similar for Greathouse and it has helped him be ahead of the curve.

“It definitely helped me a lot,” Greathouse said of playing for a program like Westlake. “There are a lot of things from Westlake that have translated over here. Just lining up in formations, small little things people from other schools weren't really taught in high school.

“For me, having the coaching staff that I had and a coaching staff that did play college football and did play in the NFL, just being able to understand what a practice should look like has helped ease the process here.”

Jayden Thomas didn’t arrive at Notre Dame as a polished receiver. His growth has been immense in the last two years where he started out as redshirt, became a pleasant surprise in 2022, to now where he’s projected WR1 for the Irish.

When asked about the strengths of Flores and Greathouse, the one thing he said both had in common was “route-running”, which is not normally a strength for freshmen.

The best receivers aren’t always the biggest or the ones who run the fastest 40. Davante Adams ran a 4.56 when he was coming out of college. DeAndre Hopkins ran a 4.57. Those players win against elite cornerbacks with more than just athleticism. Adams and Hopkins are obsessive route runners and Greathouse shares that same passion for that part of the game.

“All my life I’ve been working on route running,” Greathouse admitted. “I’ve always loved being a receiver, being that guy that creates space and gets open. The main thing for me is trying to stay unpredictable. Never letting the DBs know what I’m going to do. Once we understand coverages a lot better, I can understand what they don’t want me to do and use that to my advantage.”

Him and Flores are young. They are only going to get better. We’ve seen them get better in only a few short months since the end of spring ball.

They’re already good enough to contribute for Notre Dame this fall and they wouldn’t be in a position to do so without the help of the high school programs that produced them.

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