Notre Dame gets the letters: Trio of four-star WRs in Lorenzo Styles, Deion Colzie and Jayden Thomas
Pickerington Central High School; Pickerington, Ohio.
Measurements: 6’1”, 170 lbs.Accolades: A consensus four-star recruit, Styles is considered the No. 6 receiver in the country, per rivals.com, the No. 2 recruit in Ohio and the No. 51 overall prospect in the class.
Other Notable Offers: Nearly the entire Rust Belt pursued the Ohio product, most distinctly Ohio State, along with Michigan, Penn State and Pittsburgh. Styles committed to Notre Dame a full 14 months ago, perhaps tamping down a bit on his potential SEC offers, though Auburn and Florida still familiarized themselves with him.
Projected Position: Styles has an underrated amount of strength in his frame, perhaps making him as much a field position possibility as a slot, the natural assumption when seeing a receiver weighing less than 175 pounds. In that respect, Styles’ 4.4-second 40-yard dash speed could set him up in the mold of current junior Braden Lenzy, though hopefully with more sturdy hamstrings.
Quick Take: This may come across as dismissive of Styles or the other pair of receiving recruits in this class, but that is not the intention: Recruiting is a numbers game. Pull in three viable threats in one class, hope one of them develops into more than that and one of them becomes a decent contributor, as well. Then the class was a success. Finding three 4-star receivers in one cycle means Notre Dame played that numbers game well this time around.
Short-Term Roster Outlook: Suggesting this three days before the No. 2 Irish face No. 3 Clemson with Lenzy back on the field may prove to be an embarrassingly poor take, but as long as Lenzy cannot stay available, then the role of outside speedster should be considered up for grabs. Enrolling early could give Styles a chance at making the most of Lenzy’s inconsistencies, though what spring practice will entail is to be determined.
Long-View Depth Chart Impact: Aside from Lenzy, Notre Dame will have Xavier Watts and Jay Brunelle along the outside, and they each have as many collegiate snaps as Styles does.
Athens Academy; Athens, Ga.Measurements: 6’4”, 205 lbs.Accolades: An All-American and Polynesian Bowl invitee, nominal honors this year but honors all the same, the consensus four-star recruit rates as the No. 21 receiver, per rivals.com, the No. 11 recruit in Georgia and the No. 143 overall prospect in the country.
Other Notable Offers: More than half the SEC sought the star receiver from its own footprint, including Alabama, Georgia and Ole Miss, not to mention Oregon, Michigan and Florida State. Colzie originally committed to Notre Dame in March, but decommitted to reconsider some of those options. That never resulted in Colzie linking up with another school and in September he reverted back to the Irish rather than runner-up Tennessee.
“It definitely comes down to the school itself, academically,” Colzie told Blue & Gold Illustrated. “Football doesn’t last forever. I want a school where a degree from there would hold a lot of weight. Also, a family atmosphere where I can feel at home and feel comfortable and somewhat that my family is comfortable with. That’s the best place for me.”
Projected Position: With a bit more weight on his frame, Colzie could become the successor to Kevin Austin as Notre Dame’s big-bodied boundary receiver, following in the footsteps of Javon McKinley, Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin. For reference, McKinley is listed at only 215 pounds, though he is two inches shorter than Colzie. Claypool carried another 10-15 pounds at a height more similar to Colzie’s.
Quick Take: The idea of Colzie working the sideline goes beyond his height. A state medalist high jumper, he also has the body control to excel in the role.
Short-Term Roster Outlook: Austin figures to step into the boundary role next season with two years of eligibility remaining. When he signed with the Irish, the idea of Austin needing a fifth season to make an impression on the NFL would have been outlandish, but it would now take a remarkable 2021 for him to have enough film to make that leap. Behind him, Notre Dame still has Jordan Johnson waiting to break through. Hard as this might be to believe, the Irish may be three-deep in four-stars on the perimeter.
Long-View Depth Chart Impact: The cold hard fact of the matter is neither Austin nor Johnson has done enough to secure that boundary position moving forward. It is easy to presume it will be theirs, and they will undoubtedly get first crack at it in whatever spring practice looks like, but a chance may yet await Colzie sooner than expected.
If not, Notre Dame has shown a want to work in a rotation of receivers. The Joe Wilkins and Lawrence Keys of the group may not get many reps, but they do get some, certainly enough for moments of note. If that much does not arrive for Colzie in 2021, it should in 2022.
Pace Academy; Atlanta.
Measurements: 6’2”, 205 lbs.Accolades: The rivals.com four-star recruit ranks as the No. 47 receiver in the class and No. 23 prospect in Georgia, furthering a recent Irish trend. Though there were none in 2020, three players from Georgia signed with Notre Dame in 2019, highlighted by current star sophomore safety Kyle Hamilton, and two in 2018, including current leading receiver junior tight end Tommy Tremble. Thomas is one of three skill-position Georgians to end up with the blue-and-gold this cycle.
Other Notable Offers: More than half the SEC chased Thomas, including Georgia, but it may have been Florida State, Georgia Tech and Missouri who pushed hardest. Nonetheless, he committed to Notre Dame in early November and has not wavered.
Projected Position: Thomas’ 4.6-second 40-yard dash speed does not leap off the screen, but his acceleration and detailed footwork make him a dangerous route-runner, particularly pertinent at either the field position or the slot.
Quick Take: The critique of the Irish roster this year, and to a lesser extent the last four years, has been a lack of outside playmakers. Stocking the roster with fundamental receivers like Thomas should change that in due time.
Short-Term Roster Outlook: Notre Dame also signed a fleet of receivers last season, making up for a 2019 oversight. With Xavier Watts and Jay Brunelle in the class ahead of him, Thomas may have difficulty cracking the rotation at the field position. The same can be said at slot, where both Avery Davis and Lawrence Keys should be around in 2021.
Long-View Depth Chart Impact: While the coronavirus eligibility mulligan will give Davis a chance to come back in 2022, as well, that is unlikely. At that point, Thomas and Keys can complement each other, the latter a shiftier and speedier option, compared to Thomas’ physical yet fundamental approach.
SIGNING DAY COVERAGE
— On Signing Day, remember Notre Dame’s surge has hinged on three-stars
— A Signing Day surprise: Four-star safety Khari Gee, flipped from LSU
— A Signing Day surprise: Consensus four-star RB Audric Estime, flipped from Michigan State
— Consensus four-star QB Tyler Buchner
— Trio of four-star WRs in Lorenzo Styles, Deion Colzie and Jayden Thomas
— Five-star offensive tackle Blake Fisher and four-star guard Rocco Spindler
— Consensus four-star LB Prince Kollie, the day’s greatest worry
— Hawaiian LB Kahanu Kia
— Cornerbacks Philip Riley and Ryan Barnes
— Three-star cornerbacks JoJo Johnson and Chance Tucker
— Consensus three-star safety Justin Walters
— Tight ends Cane Berrong and Mitchell Evans— Consensus four-star defensive tackle Gabriel Rubio— Pair of California defensive ends, Will Schweitzer and Devin Aupiu
— Three more offensive linemen in Caleb Johnson, Pat Coogan & Joe Alt
— Inexperienced defensive end Jason Onye
— Kicker Joshua Bryan