Notre Dame gets the letters: Four receivers fill greatest Irish need
If the biggest gap between Notre Dame and the Playoff contenders in 2022 was at quarterback, the second-biggest gap was in perimeter playmaking. To some extent, those concerns are clearly tied together.
For the second time in three years, the Irish focused on receivers in recruiting. Well, more thoroughly, this was the third straight cycle Notre Dame did so, but last year’s haul fell apart in December, leaving only Tobias Merriweather as a signee.
Irish receivers coach Chansi Stuckey did not suffer the recruiting plight of his predecessor, signing four receivers on Wednesday as the December signing period commenced. In order of their initial commitments …
Stony Point High School; Round Rock, TexasMeasurements: 6-foot-4, 185 pounds
Accolades: A consensus four-star recruit and an Under Armour All-American, James is ranked as the No. 27 receiver in the country, per rivals.com, and the No. 149 overall prospect.
Other notable offers: James narrowed his lengthy offer list to just Notre Dame, Stanford and TCU before choosing the Irish, also holding offers from Georgia, LSU and Ohio State, as well as eight FBS programs in his homestate Texas.
That Lonestar note may be worth keeping in mind, as Stuckey was at Baylor before arriving in South Bend last winter and made it a habit to pursue receivers from Texas in this cycle, perhaps a coincidence, perhaps a trend that will continue.
Projected position: James’ height may make him an ideal boundary receiver for Notre Dame down the line, in the mold of Chase Claypool and Myles Boykin. That said, he is also comfortable in space.
Quick take: Above all else, James’ commitment as the first receiver in this Irish class was a crucial recruiting moment for a program short on receivers that found itself deep into the cycle without a playmaking pledge.
Short-term roster outlook: He’ll play. They’ll all play. The usual next note in these blurbs is “Long-term depth chart impact,” but Notre Dame’s receiver depth chart is so shallow, the short-term outlook is the same as the long-term impact. The Irish will need these receivers in 2023. With three of the four enrolling early (the fourth listed is the exception), that should be possible. Spring practice will reveal just how likely, but be surprised if they are not playing early.
RICO FLORES JR.
Folsom High School; Folsom, Calif.Measurements: 6-foot-2, 190 pounds
Accolades: A consensus four-star recruit and an All-American, Flores is ranked as the No. 22 receiver in the country, per rivals.com, and the No. 137 overall prospect.
Other notable offers: After long considering Georgia and Ohio State, Flores chose Notre Dame over the Independence Day weekend. Franky, any receiver sought by the Bulldogs and Buckeyes is probably rated a touch low by recruiting rankings.
Projected position: Flores’ downfield abilities should put him at field receiver in the future, giving him space to work with as he beats his cornerback and then deals with a helping safety. He is at his best catching a ball over his shoulder with ease, an underappreciated skill in high-school receivers.
Quick take: The combination of James and Flores is akin to sophomores Lorenzo Styles and Deion Colzie, complementary skills that should help each other flourish.
Short-term roster outlook: Notre Dame expects five receivers back next season, including former walk-on Matt Salerno. That’s it. So when looking at players like Flores, it is an Irish imperative that he be ready to play by September.
Westlake High School; Austin, TexasMeasurements: 6-foot-1, 210 pounds
Accolades: A consensus four-star recruit, Greathouse may be the best of this receivers group, ranked No. 13 among receivers by rivals.com and No. 85 among all prospects in the class of 2023.
Other notable offers: Greathouse chose Notre Dame over finalists Oklahoma, South Carolina and his homestate flagship, Texas.
Projected position: Greathouse may have the athletic abilities to play any of the three standard receiver positions. He catches more than his fair share of jump balls, his basketball skills shining there. His strong center of gravity would fit as a slot receiver, able to cut through the front-seven traffic on quick routes. And he is explosive enough to get downfield on the outside.
Quick take: Let’s pull from the thoughts when Greathouse committed, “Greathouse’s quick acceleration helps not only in getting downfield but also in getting out of breaks efficiently, complementing his sharp route-running. He may already be a more complete receiver than most such recruits, a backhanded compliment of sorts as it is a result of him not having simple height to rely on or raw sprinter’s speed.
Short-term roster outlook: Two years ago, there was hype around Lorenzo Styles playing as a freshman. In 2022’s summer, that focused on the only receiver signed a year ago, Tobias Merriweather. In their two freshman seasons, they combined for 31 catches for 381 yards and two touchdowns. Greathouse may exceed that on his own in 2023.
Rick Reedy High School; Frisco, TexasMeasurements: 6-foot, 168 pounds
Accolades: A consensus three-star prospect, Smith can be considered a Stuckey find, having chased him from Baylor and then pulling him out of Texas late in the cycle.
Other notable offers: Smith had been committed to Texas Tech for more than nine months before Stuckey and Notre Dame convinced him to de-commit and visit South Bend in November.
Projected position: At that size, slot receiver is Smith’s future.
Quick take: The difference between Smith and the rest of this receivers haul is obvious: his size, or lack thereof. That variety will make the class a better fit than simply loading up on a pile of big bodies.
Short-term roster outlook: With no Avery Davis, Notre Dame is now without a proven slot receiver. With no Michael Mayer, that need becomes even more stark. It may be odd to lump those two together to prove a vacuum, but they were Rees’ intentions for the position in 2022.
SIGNING DAY COVERAGE
Consensus four-star QB Kenny Minchey, former Pittsburgh commit
Consensus four-star running back Jeremiyah Love, No. 4 RB in the country
Five offensive lineman signees continue Irish trend up front
Four receivers fill greatest Irish need
Irish secondary boosted by four signees, speed included, despite Signing Day disappointment
Three linebackers continue Marcus Freeman’s defensive emphasis, led by Drayk Bowen
Four defensive linemen, led by consensus four-star Brenan Vernon
Consensus four-star tight end Cooper Flanagan
Brandyn Hillman, athlete who may end up on defense