Notre Dame, IN (UHND.com) – Wide receiver was one of the most critical positions for Notre Dame heading into this year’s spring football season and it appears the position remains that way heading into fall camp. As of now the Irish have David Grimes and maybe George West and then a bunch of question marks.
Grimes, the only receiver to log considerable playing time in 2006 among this year’s crop of receivers, is said to be the unchallenged #1 receiver for the 2007 season, but even he only hauled in 26 passes for 336 yards with two touchdowns as the third receiver for the Irish a season ago. In Saturday’s Blue-Gold game, the junior to be did not register a reception.
Behind Grimes we knew there was very little experience heading into spring and the only receiver who was singled out by Weis as stepping up this spring, George West, did not play in the Blue-Gold game because of a hand injury. West, a sophomore next season, may or may not be the answer at the #2 receiver spot, but it is still way too early to tell.
After West, Robby Parris appears to be the most likely receiver to challenge for a starting role in 2007. Parris, also a sophomore to be, caught two passes for 28 yards including a 15 yard touchdown from Demetrius Jones on an under thrown ball that he made a nice adjustment to. Both Jimmy Clausen and Jones looked Parris way more often than they at any other receiver out there Saturday which suggests that he has the trust of his quarterbacks.
Parris has been compared to Jeff Samardzija since he committed to Notre Dame back in the summer of 2005, and right now most Irish fans are holding out hope that he has a Samardzija-like emergence this year as Jeff did in 2005.
The other receivers on the roster have not done anything to distinguish themselves in practice to the point where Weis makes mention of them as he has both Grimes and West and the Blue-Gold game reinforced that notion.
The Irish receivers were not creating much separation and when they were, they showed some suspect hands. Richard Jackson dropped a couple passes that were very catchable and on an under thrown deep ball he sat back and waited for the ball instead of going up and getting it. His hesitation allowed Ambrose Wooden to recover and tip the ball away. For Jackson to see the field much in 2007, he is going to have to attack the ball in the air and take it away from defenders instead of waiting for it to come to him.
DJ Hord is coming off a leg injury that cost him all of 2006, and was not really a factor out there Saturday. He did not register a reception and did not do much worth noting. Hord is still getting comfortable playing full speed and learning to trust his leg again, but to this point its not clear how much he will be counted on this season.
The only other scholarship wide receiver on the roster right now is Barry Gallup and he too has not done anything to separate himself from the pack.
With a lot of uncertainty remaining at this position heading into fall camp, the obvious question is, “is there an answer in the incoming recruiting class?” The answer to that question, however is a bit complicated.
Both Duval Kamara and Golden Tate have a lot of talent and potential, but both will most likely need to be extremely fast learners in order to crack the two deep early on. The offense in which Kamara played was not very complex and Tate played mainly running back this past year so both incoming freshman are going to experience some growing pains early on in Notre Dame’s offense.
That’s not to completely rule out either from making an impact this fall – both are very talented receivers and they certainly have the skill sets to be able to make some big plays, but as we are learning with this year’s crop of freshman receivers, this offense takes time to learn at the wide receiver position.
The good news is Notre Dame has plenty of time to work on finding some receivers who can be effective. The bad news is the Notre Dame simply can’t go out and sign a free agent, they are stuck with they have and what they have right now is a group of inexperienced receivers who may or may not be fully ready to contribute this fall.
There is definitely enough talent on the roster for Weis and his staff to work with. The big question that remains to be answered, however, is whether or not they can turn that raw talent into a couple of polished receivers who can compliment what looks to be a very strong running attack in 2007.