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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Wideouts Greathouse, Thomas Will Likely “Be Back” Soon

October 1, 2023

Jaden Greathouse and the Notre Dame staff waited until the last minute before ruling the freshman wide receiver out of Saturday night’s contest versus No. 17 Duke. 

He went onto the field in full pads and even warmed up with his teammates, but he never felt comfortable enough to play after suffering a hamstring injury during practice this week. 

“He was going to try to warm up and see,” Freeman said. “He's a tough kid, and he got out there for warm-ups and there's just no way he was going to be able to do it. So we were talking about maybe using them in the red zone, but he just couldn't with how hard he plays, the way he runs routes, it wasn't what was best for him or for the team.”

Jayden Thomas was also out with a similar injury, which left Hartman without two of his three top receiver targets.

     Fighting Irish Wideout Production via Quarterback Sam Hartman (Prior to Duke)
Wide Receiver Targets Catches Yards Average Touchdowns
Jayden Thomas 19 13 195 15.0 1
Jaden Greathouse 14 11 160 14.5 3
Rico Flores Jr. 11 7 91 13 1
Chris Tyree 10 9 241 26.8 2
Tobias Merriweather 9 6 146 24.3 1
Deion Colzie 3 3 45 15.0 1
Matt Salerno  1 1 9 9.0 -

In the first five games, the Fighting Irish quarterback threw to Greathouse and Thomas 33 times compared to 34 combined targets for the other five rotational wide receivers. 

Of course, Receivers Matt Salerno and Deion Colzie were already out for extended periods. 

That left Notre Dame with three wideouts against Duke with prior game experience: underclassmen Rico Flores Jr. and Tobias Merriweather and senior Chris Tyree, who converted from running back in the spring. 

That trio combined for five catches for 65 yards on 15 targets against the nation's No. 4 rated pass-efficiency defense. 

Tyree led the way with three catches for 37 yards. Flores played a career-high 59 snaps. He hauled in two receptions for 28 yards on seven targets and caught the 2-point conversion to put the Irish up by seven in the fourth quarter.

Tobias Merriweather, in particular, struggled. He failed to catch a pass on Saturday with two drops. 

He also earned two penalties on Notre Dame’s game-winning touchdown drive that nearly caused the Irish to lose. 

He began the drive with a false start, forcing the Irish back to its own 2-yard line. 

A few plays later, the Irish were in Duke territory when Merriweather received an offense pass interference penalty that pushed them back to their own 44-yard line for 1st-and-25. Notre Dame needed Hartman to pick up a 17-yard scramble on 4th-and-16 to overcome it.

Of course, it’s difficult for skill players to carry such a large burden when they’re accustomed to playing significantly fewer snaps. For instance, Merriweather averaged 36 plays through the first five games but was on the for 63 of 66 offensive snaps against Duke, running routes or blocking hard on every play.

“When you can't rotate wideouts, they get tired,” Freeman said. “I'm so proud of the gutsy performance that they did have out there.”

Notre Dame’s depleted wide receiver room also increased the demand for other offensive skill players. 

Once again, tight end Mitchell Evans led the Irish in receiving, this time with six catches for 134 yards and three third-down conversions. 

He played 60 snaps on Saturday.

“Obviously, our room had to step up, same with the running backs,” Evans said. “I feel like we all kind of did that. Holden (Staes) was taking on more of a different blocking role than what he's done in the past, and he executed. We were doing a bunch of 22 personnel with two running backs, two tight ends out there because we had to.”

Notre Dame faces two more undefeated opponents at night before a bye in Week 8. Fortunately for the Irish, Greathouse should be back in action this week, giving Hartman his favorite weapons. 

“I believe he'll be back,” Freeman said. “I believe JT will be back. JT was running today in our pre pregame practice, just not ready to compete in a game yet.”

The Irish could also benefit from getting blue-chip freshman Braylon James game-ready in the coming weeks. 

The 6-foot-2, 202-pound receiver ran 23 miles per hour in the fall and is one of the most explosive players on the roster. 

Still, he lacks the polish as a route runner to contribute on Saturdays. 

“Braylon James is close,” Freeman said. “He's getting there, but he just wasn't ready today.”

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