Notre Dame Class ’14 Evaluations: Wide Receiver

Corey Holmes - Notre Dame WR
Corey Holmes (7) of Team Nitro (Green) in action during the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game between Team Highlight (White) and Team Nitro (Black) at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL. (Mark LoMoglio/Icon SMI)


Last week we started to evaluate each of the positions in Notre Dame’s class of 2014 starting with the quarterback spot.  Today we take a look at the players the quarterback will be throwing the ball to most frequently – the wide receivers.

Who Notre Dame got: Notre Dame landed a pair of dynamic wide receivers in the class of 2014.

  • Justin Brent (6’1″, 204 lbs, Indianapolis, IN) – A big, physical wide receiver who is built more like a college senior instead of a high school senior.  Brent enrolled early at Notre Dame after being one of the first members of the class of 2014.  The Notre Dame staff was one of the first to identify Brent as an elite talent well before he rose to being a 4-star recruit.  Brian Kelly raved about Brent’s physical attributes on Signing Day stating that Brent doesn’t look like a freshman.  Brent played most of his senior season at running back though and will benefit from his early start as he focuses on being a wide receiver.
  • Corey Holmes (6’2″, 176, Pembroke Pines, FL) – Holmes is taller than Brent, but not nearly as put together at this point weighing in at almost 30 lbs lighter than his classmate.  Holmes has more top end speed though and compares favorably to TJ Jones.  Holmes, however, has almost 3 inches on the soon to be NFL wide receiver which creates some very intriguing possibilities for Holmes in the Notre Dame offense.

Who Notre Dame missed: While Notre Dame added a potentially dynamic duo at wide receiver, the one missing component most pundits have pointed to in this year’s class is a dynamic, game-breaking playmaker at wide receiver.  Notre Dame had a number of targets in this mold, and at one time or another, it was reported that the Irish led for each of them.  There are others Notre Dame missed on at wide receiver but these four are the big ones.

  • Michiah Quick (Oklahoma) – Quick was the biggest miss at wide receiver for Notre Dame this year.  The consensus 4-star wide receiver was thought to be favoring Notre Dame for much of his senior season, but in the end he signed with Oklahoma over Notre Dame.  Usually when Notre Dame loses out on an elite California prospect it’s to USC, UCLA, or some other Pac 10 school.  Losing Quick to Oklahoma hurt.  Had Quick signed with Notre Dame on Signing Day this class would have had the cherry on top it ended up missing.
  • Ishaiah McKenzie (Georgia) – One of the absolute weirdest recruitment sagas I can ever remember.  McKenzie committed to Notre Dame in the fall without being qualified and stated his love for Notre Dame and what it would mean for him to enroll at the University.  Immediately upon getting his academics in order, McKenzie decided to open up his recruitment and visited Florida and Ole Miss before being scheduled for a trip to Notre Dame that everyone thought would end his recruitment.  At the last minute though, McKenzie visited Virginia Tech instead and Notre Dame had to drop McKenzie since he had never met with admissions.  McKenzie ended up signing with Georgia out of nowhere on Signing Day to cap off a recruitment that made Aaron Lynch’s recruiting journey seem boring.  McKenzie is an electric playmaker that could have sparked the Notre Dame return game but his recruitment also did not necessarily fit the profile of a recruit that excels at Notre Dame.
  • Allen Lazard (Iowa State) – Lazard,’s #7 rated wide receiver, committed to instate Iowa State very early and despite repeated attempts to get him on campus, Notre Dame was unable to flip the talented wide receiver.  Lazard stuck with Iowa State in the end and then Cyclones head coach Paul Rhodes ripped Notre Dame and Iowa for trying to flip him during his Signing Day presser.  Apparently that sort of stuff never happened while Rhodes was the DC at Auburn.  Lazard ended up being a huge loss for Notre Dame since they also lost out on McKenzie and Quick.
  • Charles Nelson (Oregon) – Notre Dame was recruiting Nelson and McKenzie at the same time and much like the loss of Lazard, it didn’t seem like a huge blow when he eliminated Notre Dame because things looked good for McKenzie and Quick.  With both signing elsewhere though, it sure would have been nice had the Irish been able to add the speedy Nelson to the class of 2014.

How Notre Dame addressed their needs: Notre Dame did an excellent job securing the commitments of Brent and Holmes early to give them two great outside wide receivers in this year’s class.  The one missing component though, is a playmaker for the slot position.  Had Notre Dame landed any of the four players above, this year’s wide receiver class would have been about as perfect of a complement to the banner crop of wide receivers the Irish signed last year as anyone could have hoped for.  Not getting a playmaking wide receiver who can contribute in the return game as well though is one of the more glaring holes in this year’s class.

What makes the absence of a playmaker in the slot so frustrating is that Notre Dame was felt to be leading for each of the four players outlined above at one time or another.  Many experts on 247 Sports had Notre Dame in their Crystal Ball predictions right up until Signing Day for Quick.  McKenzie was “committed” to Notre Dame while he got his academics in order even though Notre Dame could not accept the commitment at the time.  Many felt Notre Dame was easily going to be able to flip Lazard from Iowa State.  And Nelson was thought to be a possible commitment candidate on his official visit by some.  Notre Dame has candidates for the slot on the roster now – most notably Torii Hunter who has four years of eligibility left after sitting out 2013 following his broken leg – but they could have really used another candidate in this year’s class.

Early needs for 2015:  Heading into the 2014 season, Notre Dame doesn’t have a scholarship wide receiver who will exhaust their eligibility after this year.  Including the 2014 freshmen, Notre Dame will have 9 scholarship wide receivers on the roster with the remaining eligibility heading into the season.

  • 4 years: Corey Holmes, Justin Brent, Torii Hunter Jr
  • 3 years: Corey Robinson, James Onwaulu, Will Fuller, CJ Prosise
  • 2 years: Davaris Daniels, Chris Brown
  • 1 year: None

With a big senior season, Daniels could leave for the NFL (assuming his academics are all in order after missing this spring semester), but other than that, he is the only potential loss at wide receiver outside of a transfer or position change.  With that in mind, Notre Dame will not be pressed for numbers at wide receiver this year so look for Notre Dame to again be selective in their recruitment of wide receivers in this year’s class.  Notre Dame needs a game changing type receiver this year – that much is a must.  Outside of that, Notre Dame could look to take a big receiver in the mold of Corey Robinson for another red-zone target as Brian Kelly attempts to fix Notre Dame’s red-zone woes moving forward – or look to add another all-around wide receiver like Brent or Holmes.  A big season from the Notre Dame offense could drum up interest from some elite talent and allow Notre Dame to be selective this year.

Grade (B):  I love the additions of Holmes and Brent.  Both have the ability to be big time college wide receivers at some point in their careers although both will need some work fine tuning their games.  The talent is definitely there though for both to excel in this offense.  Individually, Holmes and Brent are elite prospects, but striking out at adding that slot receiver take s a little bit of the luster off of this position as a whole.  Had Notre Dame landed Quick, McKenzie, Lazard, or Nelson, this group would have easily been an A+ effort.  Talent wise the Irish added A level talent.  They just came up short on adding one additional component to push them over the top at wide receiver.

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  1. can kelly land this guy? right in his backyard!

    The Irish have not landed a prospect out of St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio since Luke Massa in 2010. St. Xavier is a perennial powerhouse in Ohio’s top division and a Catholic school to boot. They have produced NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Luke Luechly. Why the Irish have not landed more prospects out this school is a great question.

    But, this year it will not be because the Irish are not trying. Notre Dame offered St. Xavier High School Linebacker Justin Hilliard on June 11, 2013, the summer before his Junior season. Hilliard repaid the offer by attending Notre Dame’s camp and unofficially visiting the Irish in September.

    Since then Hilliard has become a national recruit, garnering offers from Florida to USC. He is rated as a 5-star prospect by 247Sports and the #1 Outside Linebacker prospect in the class of 2015.

    Tonight, Hilliard narrowed his choices to 15 schools including Notre Dame. The other 14 schools included Michigan, Alabama, Iowa, Ohio State, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Kentucky, South Carolina, Ole Miss, USC, Michigan State, Arkansas and Florida State.

  2. If you add the TES to the remaining eligibility chart it gets very interesting

    Ben Koyack -1 year
    Durham Smythe, Mike Heuerman, Nick Weishar, Tyler Luatua-4 years

    The pipeline is getting filled.

  3. Neither seemed especially interested in hitting Lacy head-on, so they ducked and dove. is this nd football?, jim lynch, bobo olsen, m stonebreaker, manti, tom schoen, these guys all .oved to hit

    1. You’ve managed the seemingly impossible task of making less sense then the original non sensical post.

      Well done!

      1. Such wit!
        But you need more than an s.
        For a starter buy a dictionary
        and look up the meanings of THEN and THAN.

      2. No mistakes here:

        mar commented on October 21st, 2013 at 1:25 pm

        What a man says speaks volumes about his character.

        With Kelly its all about KELLY.
        Did you catch his speech after the game?
        “You won because you did exactly what I told you to do”(Alluding to his “motivational” game speech.
        Not crediting the team (and being proud of them) for their determination, dedication, perseverance, spirit, grit, resolve etc.etc. etc.

        No, they won because they did what they were told.

        You ain’t no no Holtz, no Ara, no Frank, nor Knute mr kelly!!


      3. Or here:

        mar commented on January 2nd, 2014 at 10:51 am

        With the right coach he would have fulfilled his potential. Screwed by Kelly, who knows why, the kid lost all his confidence. Some can put up with a screaming, swearing, purple face and veins a-popping kind of coach (IE Tommy R) and some can,t.
        I hope he gets a chance for redemption.
        He has been a class act.


      4. You are absolutely right!

        “What a man says speaks volumes about his character.”

        Your negativism, your sarcasm, your weak attempts at humour, are well noted in your “posts”


        “You’ve managed the seemingly impossible task of making less sense then the original non sensical post.

        “Thanks for this timely and relevant post.”

        “let me get this straight, you saw a little known Div 1AA college football player in the early 80′s on tv?

        Well done!”

        “60% of the time! it works every time. Stay classy!”
        “Simmer down Roberto and grab a cupcake.”

        “I can’t hear you, please speak up.”
        And this is only scratching the surface, but they shall suffice.

        Very few have the ability to get hanged by their own petard, but you seem to have mastered it.
        Well done!

      5. Apparently this conversation is going to fast for you so let me slow it down for you in terms you can understand. The comment what a man says speaks volume about his character is only in there because I copied it off of your post. It is not in there as my judgment of your moronic musings.

        You started this as a war on grammar. So I merely showed you examples of your incorrect grammar or punctuation. I didn’t realize this was English 101 on here. I assume we all post off of phones and with autocorrect etc things are bound to show up wrong. Who cares?.

        I’m sure we are boring the other guests so you keep posting your jibberish and I’ll do the same.

  4. Check your usage of “compliment”

    The correct usage above is “complement”

    Otherwise, I compliment y’all on your analysis!!!


  5. Take Eddie Lacy. Alabama’s running back is merely the latest in a string of successes at the position. In 2009, Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy. His backup, Trent Richardson, later became the third pick in the N.F.L. draft. Lacy was Richardson’s backup on last year’s national-championship team, and after last night, when he ran for a hundred and forty-five yards, scoring two touchdowns, it’s hard to recall a moment when the first Notre Dame tackler brought him down. He was like a Jeep driving through dry savannah brush. At one point, Lacy shoved a Notre Dame lineman to the ground, less a stiff arm than a burial. In the third quarter, he barrelled toward the goal line as two Notre Dame defenders approached. Neither seemed especially interested in hitting Lacy head-on, so they ducked and dove. In a moment of grace amid the brutality—or perhaps mercy, given how he’d run over diving tacklers all night—Lacy spun to his left. Both defenders went by, barely grazing their target, and Lacy twirled into the end zone. The good news for future opponents is that Lacy is a junior, and might declare for the N.F.L. Draft. Here’s the bad news: Lacy’s backup, T. J. Yeldon, a freshman, ran for a hundred and ten yards of his own. ouch!

  6. jim, Kelly agrees with you, generally, about Smythe. He was mentioned prominently in the Fall and particularly in the pre-Bowl practice.

    Somewhere after that Kelly talked about Smythe and again emphasized his downfield receiving ability. Kelly pointedly mentioned that Smythe would have to bulk up or he might get “caugh” in a hybrid role. The subtext was that Kelly “wanted” him to bulk up to ND TE level so he could be the next

  7. Top notch analysis.

    I agree with Duranko; McKenzie may be a miss but maybe only as a return guy.

    Lazard is the only receiver I liked as the “Cherry on Top” guy for the class. He has that odd ability as an athlete to see the play before it happens and then do so very much with regard to route running and finding the ball. Lazard is one of those athletes (like Jerry Rice) I want to follow his career. (On a side note – I saw a clip of Rice early in his Miss Valley State career and I paid attention to him from then on.)

    I like Brent. He looks to be a special one.

    B to me might be a bit low but I get the reasoning.

    With all this said, is it possible Smythe will end up being a WR? I just don’t see him at TE. Maybe he is a TE but he appears to me to be a big elusive WR (I only have HS clips to inform me to I could be way wrong).

      1. A sports highlight clip on one of his catches. It was a late night sports talk show in NYC. Can’t remember which one. Just one of those moments where the sports commentator was talking about great catches in the pros and he put that one clip of Rice up next to the pros. Followed his career after that.

        Odd thing was, my buddy was the football nut, he went to Auburn – he and I watched that clip. I raved about the catch for days saying the kid was going to be a superstar and my buddy said, there were tons of players just like him in college. Oh well.

  8. What’s nice about the depth chart is that there are both numbers and they are spread out over several eligibility classes. This allows you to recruit without desperation.

    Further, I think Blake Barnett is going to be a key wide receiver recruiter
    for the 2015 Shamrock Soldiers.

    I think that the slot “slotting” is nice, but it is not as precise as say OT/OG or OLB/ILB and I think we have a number of folks who can play slot, or for that matter a fourth wide receiver. I am less than persuaded by the “purity” of the slot position.

    On McKenzie, my surmise is that he will be missed far more as a kick returner than as a receiver. We’ll get to watch his career develop at

    1. Great point on Barnett, duranko. Having an elite QB in the class early is a great way to attract an elite WR or two – especially if Barnett hits up the 7 on 7 circuit hard and keeps lighting it up.

  9. I will miss TJ, a testament to those who follow what a difference
    hard work and development can result in.

    Having Robinson & Daniels, WR seems to be in ‘good hands’.
    Add the speed of Fuller and Brown, with Holmes developing,
    and wide-out can be a team strength the next two years or so
    with whom we already have.

    ‘B’ is a seemingly fair grade for this position of recruits
    because of the misses above, but
    the depth already here bumps the overall WR grade up even higher.

    With Torii Hunter in the slot, what diminishes Brent or Carlisle or Onwaulu
    or Prosise as quality “next-man-in” slot receivers? More potential to excel
    with continued development than we’ve had for a while.

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