Don’t You Forget About Chris Finke at WR for Notre Dame

The talk all spring for Notre Dame at the wide receiver has rightfully centered around how the Irish offense can unlock the potential of potential game changing receivers in the junior and sophomore classes.  And to a lesser extent, whether or not Chase Claypool will finally reach the potential he’s been scratching the surface of for years.  Lost in the mix though is senior Chrs Finke – the guy who likely will lead Notre Dame in receptions this fall.

We’ve even talked about how the arrow is pointing up on Braden Lenzy and how Finke’s backup, Lawrence Keys, is quietly having himself a good spring as well.  We haven’t spent much time talking about Chris Finke though and it’s time we start.

Everyone know’s Finke’s story.  Came to Notre Dame as a walk-on, played his way to a scholarship, and then eventually the starting lineup.  Notre Dame fans have been penciling in other receivers ahead of him on the depth chart the last two years.  All Chris Finke has done is produce and improve.

Reports out of spring ball are that Finke, now a 5th year senior, is really coming into his own and causing nightmares for the Notre Dame secondary – a unit that is expected to be pretty darn good this fall.

If Finke’s 2018 season is any indication of what’s in store in 2019, Notre Dame fans can put those pencils away.  After catching just 16 passes for 224 yards in 2016 and 2017 – combined – Finke exploded for 49 receptions and 571 yards with 2 touchdowns last fall.  And he wants to get better.

“Playing with no fear ever,” Finke told Fighting Irish Digital Media’s Jack Nolan last week.  “Going in there and being physical all the time.  You saw Chase and Miles were real physical last year.  I try to get in there – it’s a little more difficult being my size but I watch guys like Julian Edleman in the NFL and he’s cracking heads.  That’s something I want to try to do,” he added.

Finke is firmly in the starting lineup as Notre Dame’s slot receiver right now and won’t be going anywhere.  His game is tailor-made not only for the slot position but for quarterback Ian Book’s strengths.  Finke is almost certainly the best route runner on the team and excels at getting open quickly.  Ian Book is an extremely accurate quarterback who excels at getting the ball out early.  It’s a pairing that will connect together a lot in 2019.

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Adding a Vertical Element to the Notre Dame Offense

Finke’s game isn’t limited to just 5 yard in and outs and getting “scrappy” yards though.  Finke showed often in 2018 that he can get open downfield.  He hauled in Brandon Wimbush’s heave against Michigan over two Wolverine defenders for a touchdown.  He spent an October night burning the Virginia Tech secondary deep, but hadn’t yet developed the chemistry with Book to take advantage.  He turned the tide of the USC game with a 24 yard touchdown in the corner of the endzone at the end of the first half.

Part of Notre Dame’s answer for stretching defenses and getting vertical in 2019 very well could involve getting Chris Finke lined up in favorable match-ups and letting him do what we saw him do to Virginia Tech, Michigan, and USC.

Finke makes his impact felt in more than just the passing game.  He spent the 2018 season as Notre Dame’s primary punt returner where the Irish staff actually let him do more than just fair catch.  He averaged 9.8 yards per return with a long of 51 yards on 20 returns – the kind of production Notre Dame hasn’t really seen in the punt game in some time.   That’s an area he is looking to improve on as well.

“Hopefully a big one,” Finke answered when asked what kind of impact he might have in the punt game last week by Nolan.  “You never know what way the ball is going to bounce, the way the punt is coming off the foot, and if you’re gonna get chances or not.  But hopefully we’ll have something schemed up to get some good returns.”

A Leadership Role for Chris Finke in 2019

When captains are announced, Chris Finke is very likely to be one of them.  Finke’s been part of Notre Dame’s off-season leadership committee as a SWAT team leader.  The staff already entrusted Finke with keeping a young but talented wide receiving corps focused throughout the off-season.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone if they entrust him with being a captain as well.

Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool both caught more passes than Chris Finke last year, but with a full off-season to further develop a budding rapport with Book, Finke could easily end up leading Notre Dame in receptions this fall.  Claypool will undoubtedly have more of the circus catches and more touchdowns because  of his size in the redzone, but Finke could easily end up catching 6-7 balls a week for 75-85 yards.  That would result in a 75 catch, 900+ yard season this fall.

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Looking even further down the road, a strong senior season could propel Chris Finke to a NFL career.  He might not put up the jaw dropping numbers at the NFL Combine like Miles Boykin did a couple months ago, but he’s is much more than just a “former walkon” at this point.  He could be Notre Dame’s leading receiver in 2019 and could be catching passes in the NFL

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5 comments

  1. David Deeb 6 months ago

    Slot receivers should study EDleman’s rout running. He is always open with great moves.

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  2. Bruce Gregory Curme 6 months ago

    With Claypool, Kmet, and some speed merchant all on the field at the same time as Finke, a defensive coordinator has a tough choice to make: does the defense devote one of its best cover guys to Finke, the way Vanderbilt devoted their best guy to Boykin, but likely create a serious match-up problem on one of the other three while blanketing Finke? Or does the defense try to take away somebody else and risk Finke “doing a Michigan” on them? Or do they just play zone against Book? I love “choose your poison” scenarios…and 2019 looks like it could be one of those years. Too bad we don’t have a “Bettis” type to throw into the mix, just to make the skilled positions entirely grotesque…like the gargoyles that watch over Alumni Hall. Perhaps a running back with a sense of humor will emerge from the crowd. As for my imaginary opponent defensive coordinator – well screw him if he can’t take a joke, right?

    BGC ’77 ’82

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  3. ChrisJ 6 months ago

    Finke is from my alma mater so I’ve been a little biased towards him in the past but he has proven he should be a starter and should have some sort of gameplan to get him the ball more, especially in space. I’m not sure how many of you watch the WR drills from practices but in one on one, nobody can tackle Finke in space. He is incredibly shifty, reminds me of Golden Tate who would never go down from one tackler. Finke has gotten better every year and I see a monster year for him as this article points out. He did have a couple drops on short crosses that were sure TDs last year so I’d like to see that improve but I think he hauls in 6+ TDs this year and at least 50 catches.

    And then on PR, we just need to scheme better to get him more open space when he catches the ball. I’ve said this in the past but I have no idea why we don’t double team both gunners on the outside. The middle is so clogged up and their first priority is to block internally to prevent a punt block and to not get downfield like the gunners. Setting up returns like this would give Finke all kinds of room to run. I hope our ST coach gets his head out of his a** and starts utilizing these guys to their best ability. I’d like to see Finke be the #1 kickoff return man too if Brenzy or Keys aren’t contributing. Finke returned several kicks and punts for TDs in high school. I know he can do it at this level too.

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    1. A68domer 6 months ago

      Love this guy, too. But do you want to wear him out? He’ Good, but not Superman.

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  4. Raymond W Ivan 7 months ago

    He is a very underrated receiver. He CATCHES the ball.

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