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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 0 Braden Lenzy, fifth-year receiver, one of few healthy WRs

Cincinnati v Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 02: Braden Lenzy #0 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish reacts during the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Notre Dame Stadium on October 2, 2021 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

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Listed measurements: 5-foot-11 ⅜, 182 pounds.2022-23 year, eligibility: A fifth-year veteran, Lenzy has two seasons of eligibility remaining. In other words, he could conceivably return to Notre Dame for the 2023 season, as unlikely as that seems.Depth Chart: For the number of criticisms that can be levied at Lenzy — more on them below — he has managed to stay available more often than not throughout his career, and right now that is vital for the Irish. Lenzy will start at Ohio State in 29 days. In years past, he fit best as the field (wide) receiver, but with sophomore Lorenzo Styles also in the mix, Lenzy may move around the formation.Recruiting: Lenzy’s recruitment remains a lesson for fans on what not to do. A consensus four-star prospect, Lenzy de-committed from Notre Dame to instead head to his homestate Oregon with an understanding he could also run track for the historic Ducks program. Irish fans were not fans of that choice, and some made that known to Lenzy via social media.

When Oregon head coach Willie Taggart left to take the job at Florida State, Lenzy flipped back to Notre Dame. Ducks fans were not pleased with that choice, and some made that clear to Lenzy online.

His commitment came complete with a letter to those fans, all those who had criticized his choices as he plotted out his life, and if anything, it did not speak harshly enough to those loudmouths.

As available as Lenzy has been, he has also missed a number of games to concussions, nagging hamstring issues and then pandemic protocols. Missing nine games in his first two active seasons was not a great sign, but by current Notre Dame worries, that would be near full health.

When he did play, Lenzy shined in 2019, taking a total of 24 touches for 454 yards and four touchdowns. Hamstring troubles kept him from building on that momentum in 2020, but he was largely consistent in 2021. Lenzy caught at least one pass in every game except against Navy and had at least 21 receiving yards in nine games.

In the Fiesta Bowl, Lenzy was one of four receivers the Irish could trot out as quarterback Jack Coan dropped back to pass 70 times. Lenzy openly admitted to being gassed in the fourth quarter of that effort, as he caught seven passes for 60 yards.

2019: 9 games, 2 starts; 11 catches for 254 yards and two touchdowns with 13 rushes for 200 yards and two more scores.2020: 7 games, 1 start; 7 catches for 63 yards and one touchdown with 3 rushes for 8 yards.2021: 13 games, 11 starts; 32 catches for 350 yards and three touchdowns with 5 rushes for 69 yards.

Lenzy and sophomore receiver Lorenzo Styles recently signed a NIL deal with Under Armour and Dick’s Sporting Goods to push a cozy line of athletic apparel.

Lenzy’s health has been a mixed bag. He has never suffered a season-compromising injury like fifth-year receiver Joe Wilkins (Lisfranc) is worrying about right now or that cost sixth-year Avery Davis (ACL) the final month of 2021. But Lenzy has also never been the most durable. There was nothing Lenzy could do to avoid those early-career concussions, aside from not playing football at all, but plaguing hamstrings can be vaguely addressed in the offseason, as can an overall slight frame.

Lenzy has put on muscle, even if his current listed weight is up just one pound from this time a year ago.

Some of that improved strength was visible in Lenzy’s favorite route, a post corner that he could deploy more often in 2021. The route requires a cut back from momentum at about 135 degrees.

“It’s definitely tough,” Lenzy said to Jac Collinsworth on the ND on NBC Podcast in September. “I couldn’t really do it for a long time, or if I did it was inconsistent. It has become one of my better routes.

“I actually got one in the Wisconsin game. Avery caught one, too. I just think it’s so fun. … For me, it’s probably my most efficient, highest completion percentage catch.”

“It sounds simplistic, but it remains true: Lenzy’s success will come down to health. He has shown he can excel at the collegiate level. There are not enough quality cornerbacks on Notre Dame’s schedule to truly hamper him this season. Only his hamstrings can do that.

“The Irish do not need Lenzy to be a 50-catch receiver, or even a 40-catch receiver. His 2019 effectiveness would do plenty to worry opposing defenses on every snap.

“If Lenzy ends 2021 with literally two catches in every game, but one of them is always for at least 20 yards, it will mean Notre Dame’s offense found a gear it has lacked for a few years. That may sound meager, but it would be 25 catches for at least 300 yards and more likely closer to 450.

“Add in a few long touchdowns and Lenzy’s impact will gain more notoriety.

“Measuring expectations for Lenzy may not feel necessary given his talent is proven, but doing so may also measure his workload, which should then lead to more efficient usage. Lenzy’s snaps and targets should not be about quantity, but about quality. …

“From there, Lenzy can return in 2022 and add some more muscle to his frame to become a more consistent receiving option. He will never be a classic possession receiver, but that is also not his skill set, nor a common player in the NFL anymore.

“If Lenzy can prove healthy for an extended stretch, then the NFL will want to take a chance on him. Two years totaling 60-plus catches and 1,200 yards will get the NFL’s attention.”

If last summer’s projection was accurate and Lenzy will put up 60 catches and 1,200 yards across the 2021 and 2022 seasons, then he owes 28 catches and 850 yards this year. Averaging 30.4 yards per catch would be otherworldly, but the 850 receiving yards would also be rather noteworthy. In the last five seasons, only three Irish receivers have topped that mark: Miles Boykin (872 in 2018), Chase Claypool (1,037 in 2019) and Kevin Austin (888 in 2021).

Lenzy reaching that many yards would be even more shocking considering he will be no higher than the No. 2 receiving option for Notre Dame this season, thanks to preseason All-American and rather-certain first-round draft pick tight end Michael Mayer.

The 28 catches, however, may be more underselling Lenzy’s potential this year.

Lenzy has taken 1,011 snaps in his career, and on 71 of them, the ball ended up in his hands. The math there is rather simple: On about 7 percent of the plays, Lenzy gets the ball.

The Irish have something resembling no receiver depth. While that may lead offensive coordinator Tommy Rees to slow down the game — Lenzy could run 70 routes in the bowl game after a month off; he could not do it on a weekly basis — Notre Dame should not fall too far off last year’s 903 offensive snaps. Lenzy should play three-quarters of them, as one of two stalwarts in the receiving corps along with Styles.

By that math, Lenzy will see about 600 plays. 7 percent of 600 is 42.

If Lenzy ends 2022 with 42 touches, he could surpass 600 yards from scrimmage. If that includes a handful of touchdowns, it will be a solid contribution.

And all of that does not boost any of Lenzy’s trends for supposed gained strength or simple maturity. Add those in and Lenzy could get that much closer to 1,000 yards from scrimmage. The Irish would be overjoyed with such.

RELATED READING: Latest evolution of WR Braden Lenzy isn’t too late for Notre Dame

Lenzy’s speed may make him a mid-round draft pick. His recruitment was long ago by now, but anyone who could sprint for Oregon has the type of speed that entices some NFL front offices to make rash decisions.

If he gets through the 2022 season without missing a game, his durability worries will be far enough in the rearview mirror as to not make those franchises hesitate.

The NFL is on the verge of a run on young receivers, value available in their services while the top-10 receivers in the league make money not too far from what quarterbacks are usually paid. That will further strengthen Lenzy’s chances of getting drafted.

With 2022 health, do not expect Lenzy back in 2023.

From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end

No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 85 Holden Staes, incoming freshman tight end
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77 Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man
No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’
No. 65 Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer
No. 59 Aamil Wagner, consensus four-star incoming freshman offensive tackle
No. 58 Ashton Craig, incoming freshman center
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery
No. 56 Joey Tanona, early-enrolled offensive guard coming off a concussion
No. 56 Howard Cross, senior defensive tackle with heavy hands, and that’s a good thing
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year offensive lineman, three-year starting center, captain
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, senior defensive tackle, now lighter and a starter
No. 54 Blake Fisher, sophomore starting right tackle, ‘ginormous’
No. 52 Zeke Correll, senior center or perhaps left guard
No. 52 Bo Bauer, fifth-year linebacker, Ironman
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, sophomore offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, sophomore end-turned-linebacker
No. 47 Jason Oyne, sophomore defensive end-turned-tackle
No. 44 Junior Tuihalamaka, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, consensus four-star recruit
No. 44 Alex Peitsch, junior long snapper
No. 42 Nolan Ziegler, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Irish legacy
No. 41 Donovan Hinish, incoming freshman defensive tackle, Kurt’s brother
No. 40 Joshua Burnham, early-enrolled freshman linebacker-turned-end
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, senior Vyper end coming off an Achilles injury
No. 31 NaNa Osafo-Mensah, senior defensive end
No. 29 Matt Salerno, fifth-year receiver, punt returner, former walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, fifth-year starting nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, senior linebacker recovering from a plaguing wrist injury
No. 25 Philip Riley, sophomore cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, junior running back, possible Irish bellcow
No. 24 Jack Kiser, senior linebacker, second-year starter
No. 23 Jayden Bellamy, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 22 Justin Walters, sophomore safety
No. 22 Logan Diggs, sophomore running back with a shoulder injury
No. 21 Jaden Mickey, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 20 Jadarian Price, early-enrolled freshman running back with a ruptured Achilles
No. 20 Benjamin Morrison, freshman cornerback
No. 18 Chance Tucker, sophomore cornerback
No. 18 Steve Angeli, freshman QB, Blue-Gold Game star
No. 17 Jaylen Sneed, early-enrolled linebacker, Rover of the future
No. 16 Brandon Joseph, Northwestern transfer, preseason All-American, starting safety
No. 16 Deion Colzie, sophomore receiver
No. 15 Tobias Merriweather, freshman receiver, forever a memorable recruitment
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, sophomore cornerback
No. 14 Bryce McFerson, freshman punter facing a Harvard challenge
No. 13 Gi’Bran Payne, freshman running back, late recruit
No. 12 Tyler Buchner, sophomore starting QB
No. 12 Jordan Botelho, a defensive end-turned-linebacker
No. 11 Ron Powlus III, sophomore QB providing steadiness to a chaotic room
No. 11 Ramon Henderson, junior cornerback-turned-safety
No. 10 Drew Pyne, junior quarterback
No. 10 Prince Kollie, sophomore linebacker, high school Butkus Award winner
No. 9 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL
No. 9 Justin Ademilola, fifth-year defensive end, a backup in name only
No. 8 Marist Liufau, senior linebacker returning from a dislocated ankle
No. 7 Audric Estime, sophomore running back, No. 2 on the shortened depth chart
No. 7 Isaiah Foskey, defensive end on a record chase
No. 6 Clarence Lewis, three-year starting cornerback
No. 5 Joe Wilkins, receiver with a September-costing foot injury
No. 5 Cam Hart, senior cornerback, second-year starter
No. 4 Xavier Watts, junior receiver-turned-safety
No. 4 Lorenzo Styles, sophomore receiver poised for a breakout
No. 3 Avery Davis, sixth-year receiver returning from an ACL injury
No. 3 Houston Griffith, fifth-year safety
No. 2 DJ Brown, fifth-year safety

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