Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

The Top Wide Receiver Groups ND Will Face in 2019

May 21, 2019
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He didn’t get the publicity because of the cornerback who played on the other side of the field, but Troy Pride had a breakout 2018 season.

His first full year as a starter was an outstanding one. He only gave up one touchdown in coverage the entire season and it happened in the last series of the last game in garbage time. Very few in college football defended the deep ball as well as he did and he finished the season with 12 passes defensed (two interceptions).

He is poised to be one of the better corners in college football in 2019 and Notre Dame will need him to be. Clark Lea could end up having him shadow the the opposition’s top receiver every week now that Julian Love is gone to the NFL and that would put a lot of pressure on Pride to perform.

There is no doubt he has the talent to take on that challenge if it’s asked of him, but it might not be as simple as having him move around all over the field. Lea might prefer to keep it more traditional with him sticking to the field side rather than the boundary because there a few teams who they Irish face who have more than one dangerous receiver to cover.

Whether it’s Houston Griffith, Donte Vaughn, Shaun Crawford in the nickel, or a mixture of other players, Pride and the rest of Notre Dame’s corners will be tested this year by a few teams with multiple impact receivers.

USC

Notre Dame’s defensive backs got a firsthand look at how talented USC’s receivers are last season and the trio of Tyler Vaughns, Michael Pittman, and Amon-ra St. Brown are all back in ‘19. Each of them had over 90 yards receiving in the game in Los Angeles.

After Alabama and Clemson, this might be the best wide receiver group in the country. All three can do serious damage and if Notre Dame puts too much attention towards one player, the other two have the ability to make a big play if matched up one on one.

Play too soft and they can chip away at a defense like they did last year. Play too aggressive and a player like the 6’4” Pittman can go up over the top of a corner like he did here against TaRiq Bracy.

via GIPHY

Virginia Tech

The Irish play the Hokies in back to back years, which means they have to face Damon Hazelton again. The transfer from Ball State was named second team All-ACC last season and scored 8 touchdowns, including one against Notre Dame. He had his best game of the season in their matchup going for 131 yards on 12 catches.

Hazelton has the speed to stretch the field and also the size (he’s over 220) to win contested catches like this one.

via GIPHY

The good news is that Notre Dame doesn’t have to deal with Eric Kumah with him electing to transfer. The bad news is that Kumah was probably going to be their third best receiver this season with sophomore Tre Turner, a former 4-star recruit who held a Notre Dame offer, ready to emerge as a star player.

Turner averaged 20.6 yards per reception last season and scored four touchdowns as a true freshman. With him on one side and Hazelton on the other, Notre Dame might have match up Pride with one and roll coverage towards the other.

Michigan

I know no one likes to hear about Michigan at all, but they have a group of receivers that are going to test Notre Dame quite a bit. It all starts with Nico Collins who is not only big (6’4” 218), but his strides eat up ground in a hurry. Similar to Miles Boykin, he’s a back shoulder monster who is incredibly tough to defend against on those throws.

via GIPHY

Together he and Donovan Peoples-Jones combined for 14 touchdowns. DPJ might not have be the stud some expected him to be right out of the gate at Michigan, but he’s still a freak athlete who shows the flashes to become a dominating player.

If Tarik Black can ever become the player they thought he would be before a couple of foot injuries, then it will make three that can make a big play at any given moment. Michigan has to do a good job protecting Shea Patterson to get the ball to these receivers (they sure didn’t last year), but if Patterson has time then they will be difficult to deal with.

 
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