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Virginia Tech WR transfer Kaleb Smith gives Notre Dame needed size and experience, if also nominal confusion

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 12 Virginia Tech at Duke

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 12: Kaleb Smith (80) of the Virginia Tech Hokies attempts to being in a touchdown pass during a football game between the Duke Blue Devils and the Virginia Tech Hokies on Nov 12, 2022 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, NC. (Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Wednesday morning, Notre Dame received the signed National Letter of Intent from a Texas three-star receiver named Kaleb Smith. On Wednesday afternoon, the Irish landed another receiver named Kaleb Smith, this one a Virginia Tech graduate transfer.

Certainly, this will not lead to any confusion in 2023.

The latter Smith, the elder, the one who played in 30 career games across four seasons for the Hokies, will bring size and proven ability to Notre Dame’s receiving room that otherwise lacks much in the way of known commodities.

He visited South Bend last weekend, then shutting down his transfer recruitment process despite holding offers from UCLA and USC, among others.

“I always heard there wasn’t much going on in South Bend, but I was impressed,” Smith said to Irish Sports Daily. “I think it’s a step-up town-wise from Blacksburg.

“It’s similar in a way, where it’s a college town and college environment and there’s fans all around, but all of the different options to eat; [receivers coach Chansi Stuckey] took me around. We drove around Granger and Mishawaka and then downtown. I loved it.”

At 6-foot-3 and 215 or 220 pounds, Smith brings size otherwise found only in Deion Colzie or Jayden Thomas on Notre Dame’s roster. The pair of current sophomores have combined for 33 catches for 554 yards and four touchdowns. Smith’s 2022 alone tallied 37 catches for 674 yards and three touchdowns, all numbers that would have led all Irish receivers this past season, handily in the case of his yardage.

Smith — to be clear and to drive home this redundancy, talking about the elder here, the transfer — has only one season of eligibility remaining, one granted by the 2020 season not counting toward his ticking eligibility clock. In his career, he has 74 catches for 1,143 yards and seven scores.

Notre Dame’s five returning receivers — adding freshman Tobias Merriweather, sophomore Lorenzo Styles and former walk-on Matt Salerno to the Colzie and Thomas stats; Braden Lenzy is not expected to return for a sixth year in 2023 — have combined for 94 grabs for 1,337 yards and eight touchdowns in their careers.

Along with the four incoming freshmen signed Wednesday, including Kaleb Smith the younger, the Irish now have 10 total receivers on the 2023 roster. (Lenzy could return; it is just not expected at this juncture.) Most coaches would consider that to be a bare minimum to get through a season, wanting to use up to six on any given Saturday, assuming at least two will be injured at some point and another one or two may scuffle in their development.

With five of the 10 either freshmen or sophomores, and a sixth a former walk-on, Notre Dame may yet seek some further experience at the position.

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

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