It’s hard to take anything too definitive out of the annual Notre Dame Blue & Gold game, given the nature of the event, but sometimes things stand out so much they’re impossible to ignore. Early enrollee Jaden Greathouse was one of those things on Saturday afternoon with an 11-catch, 118-yard performance.
While Greathouse hauled in 11 passes, no one on either team caught more than four passes today. “The balls just kept coming to me, and I just kept trying to stay disciplined and do what I’m supposed to do, and they just kept coming my way,” Greathouse said after the game. “I’ll never complain about that. It’s all thanks to the quarterbacks for giving me the ball in the first place, and they did a great job as well.”
If Saturday was any indication of what is to come from Greathouse over the next four years, Notre Dame fans will never complain about it either.
“He stuck out. He played well. He played really well,” head coach Marcus Freeman said of Greathouse’s impressive performance. “All three of those freshmen are going to help us. All three of those freshmen will play for us this year. I’m really confident that those three guys will help this football team,” he added.
The other two Freeman reference – Bryalon James and Rico Flores – didn’t have the impact that Greathouse had on Saturday. The Texas native was seemingly always open regardless of who the quarterback was, even if he did a lot of his damage during Sam Hartman’s quarter and a half of work.
“It’s good to see Jaden step up today,” Freeman said. “Like I said, when the lights are on, you want to see who will step up and make plays, and all three of them have been really, really good additions to our program throughout the spring.”
Notre Dame actually signed four wide receivers in this cycle, but one – Kaleb Smith – won’t arrive until the summer and wasn’t on campus for spring ball like Greathouse, Flores, and James. Of the four, Greathouse was widely considered to have the most instant impact potential, but I don’t think anyone expected to see Greathouse post the numbers he did on Saturday.
Greathouse himself was surprised by how much action came his way. “It’s crazy,” he said after the game. “It’s a blessing for sure. I remember a year ago today. I was in the stands watching this game. It’s definitely a blessing, and I’m just trying to make the most of the opportunity God gave me.
Opportunities were aplenty for Greathouse on Saturday. Sam Hartman and Steve Angelli attempted 28 passes combined for the Gold squad, and 13 of those attempts were targets for Greathouse. He benefited from better quarterback play than his classmates and made the most of it. He was also appreciative to be catching passes from a quarterback like Hartman.
He’s a tremendous player – all of our quarterbacks are,” Greathouse said when asked about Harman. “It’s definitely relieving to have guys like that to throw me the ball. I’m really appreciative we have those kinds of guys, and I’m super excited for what comes next.”
Greathouse has made some huge strides in just 15 practices. “I feel like the difference is night and day,” Greathouse said of his first spring. “Just trying to learn the plays, trying to get lined up in the right spots just helped me play a lot faster. Coach Stuck has done a great job coaching all of us mid-years to get used to the speed of the game.”
The scouting report on Greathouse out of high school was that while he lacked elite top-end speed, he possessed elite route running skills. Those skills were on full display on Saturday as Greathouse did his damage by working the middle of the field and gobbling up almost everything thrown his way. Here he is, making a great catch for a 19-yard gain from Steve Angelli.
Greathouse was asked about his route running following the game. “Working on it every day. I take a lot of pride in my route running,” the freshman said. “Definitely just trying to improve in any way I can. Adjusting to the speed of the game has been a pretty big challenge – it’s a lot faster than high school – but I’m definitely slowly but surely getting there.”
Notre Dame already lost Virginia Tech transfer Kaleb Smith – not to be confused with incoming freshman Kaleb Smith – who retired from football last week, and Lorenzo Styles to the transfer portal on Friday. So snaps and starting roles are up for grabs. Greathouse might just have grabbed one of them in the Blue & Gold game.