Jayden Thomas Commits: Notre Dame Adds Another Dynamic WR to 2021 Class

In a cap to what has been a terrific couple of months for Notre Dame’s 2021 recruiting class, Georgia four star wide receiver Jayden Thomas announced his commitment to play football for the Irish in 2021.

Thomas joins fellow four star receivers Deion Colzie and Lorenzo Styles, gives Kelly and receivers coach Del Alexander one of the best receiver hauls (on paper) of the Kelly era, and gives the Irish a trifecta in the receiver archetype category.

This commitment will give Kelly’s program 19 commitments overall and move the Irish into the top 10 in the composite rankings, something that seemed out of the realm of realistic possibilities at the start of the summer. And digging back into Brian Kelly’s “we can be a top five recruiting program” comments from last winter, it’s at least easy to see why he felt that way. With the addition of Thomas, Notre Dame is a player like Donte Thornton (who is still in play for the Irish, though they are not favored) or Will Shipley (Notre Dame finished second to Clemson) away from finishing in the top five this season. Of course, as with lots of things regarding the Notre Dame football program, being close to 5th is not actually finishing 5th; there is a point to be made there. But, at least the blueprint is there.

Jayden Thomas The Player

I said above Thomas gives Notre Dame the trifecta of receiver archetypes, here is where I will explain. Generally, we put players into categories, with Deion Colzie (6-4, 195) being the tall “jump ball” type, Lorenzo Styles (6-1, 185) the speed, slot type, and Jayden Thomas (6-1, 205) the mid-size, strength type. It’s rare to get all three types neatly into a class like this, but here we are.

When I watch Thomas play, he reminds me of David Givens. Strong, good with the ball in his hands, long speed without great top end speed, good in all areas of the field. He’s also an advanced route runner, who is sudden in his movements, the biggest thing that gives defensive backs problems.

The other area where he excels is selling routes, and it comes up a couple times on his highlight tape. He runs a stop and go (against a pretty hilariously obvious double team) that the corner bites on to the point where he becomes a non-factor in the play. Thomas then out jumps the safety for the ball and it’s a big game. In the next clip, Thomas runs a simply stop, and the corner is caught off balance at the cut, he slips, and Thomas has a big gain.

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Here is an example of Thomas selling the route to a point where for a second I had no idea where he was going with it. He comes off the line hard and at about 10 yards he leaves the screen. While watching for a second I think, what route is this, and my instinct is to think it’s a straight go since he blasted off of the line. Then you see the quarterback throwing the ball, and it’s apparent he’s run an out, and then defensive back is no where near the play, because he obviously respected the go route too.

Team Fit

I’m currently on a kick about Notre Dame not putting their receivers into traditional positions, despite labeling them as such earlier. For example, generally you see someone like Thomas and think the X or W receiver, and someone like Styles and think the slot.

I actually like Thomas more for the slot because he’s such a good route runner (I feel the same about Jordan Johnson) and what kinds of mismatches it can provide in the middle of the field. This is something Notre Dame has not done in the past, at least on a permanent basis. We’ve seen players like Claypool and Boykin play in the slot at times, but not as their permanent position like Chris Finke or Lawrence Keys, and I see it as a missed opportunity. Especially given the size and strength of Thomas, who is comfortable moving around in all areas of the field and has the power as a blocker as well, there are mismatches to be had there.

Wherever they put him, a player of Thomas’s caliber being the third highest ranked receiver in the class makes for a hell of a haul, even if he is the last of the receivers added to the group. Should Notre Dame land Donte Thornton in January, that’d take this group, in terms of rankings, up to an all-time level for Notre Dame.

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8 Comments

  1. Hindsight always being 20 20 it’s obvious Georgia made a big mistake last year not starting Fields over Jake Fromm. They had the overall team to make a national championship
    run with Fields. I just hope Kelly doesn’t regret giving Phil playing time. He looked pretty darn good to me 36 of 57 330 yards. Threw a lot of nice passes. Pushed the ball vertically down the field. Book better improve fast for Notredame to have a chance to maybe have a special season.

    1. Spot on Pete. Jurkovek is looking pretty darn good and lets not forget its pretty much his first year getting significant playing time. Also playing with a much inferior supporting cast then what he would have at ND. Unlike you I hope Kelly does regret letting Jurkovek get away. ND wont win a championship with Book as there QB. And what happens if or when Book gets hurt or comes down with the virus and has to miss games. Absolutely no experience with the backup QBs.

      1. well said Jeff. I agree, highly doubt Book could lead Notredame to a national championship. Even though I think Kelly has done a very good job and has Notredame consistently now in the top 10 until he can recruit and develop an elite qb I think Notredame is going to continue to lose yo Ohio State, Alabama,Clemson, Heorgia etc. Heck if you think about Charlie Weis was better than Kelly as far as recruiting and developing qb. Look it how he developed both Quinn and Jimmy Clausen. They got better and better. They both were in the Heisman trophy conversation their last year. Finally keep your eye on the qb from Florida named Trask. He has thrown 10 touchdown passes and has grat talent around him. Also , Dan Mullen is a great offensive mind.

  2. Great summary and analysis re: young Thomas.
    Other sites have suggested a sharp drop in his recent recruiting rankings. Some have projected him as a potential DB, as he and the other two WR recruits have played DB & WR also in HS.
    Sounds like he has his priorities right.
    Let’s hold on to the recruits, stay healthy, and look forward to excellence and depth continuing.

  3. I agree with the statement about having a great QB. We have had Good QBs in the past but none have been Great. Brady Quinn just never got over the good hump into greatness and Jimmy Clausen never lived up to the near perfect rating he had coming out of highschool. If we can develop a QB to ascend over the “good” hump into the great to go along with this talent we are putting together in all the other positions around them i believe ND will take that next step into the upper echelon of college football along the likes of Bama Clemson and Ohio St. I’m not completely sold that Book can take that step but hopefully someone on the current roster will or Buchner lives up to what we hope he can be and brings that NC we have been craving for the last 30 years.

  4. Really like this kid. The key though is for Kelly to recruit and develop a Heisman trophy level qb. To beat Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama and elite teams like that you need a great qb. Look who has beaten those teams or played them down to the wire Justin Fields. Trevor Lawrence. Joe Burrow Sam Howell etc. Could Ian Book.? Maybe but He has to get a lot better and fast.

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