With Notre Dame’s latest commitment Friday from Jayden Thomas, Brian Kelly and his coaching staff added to what is now a talent gap-closing type of haul at the wide receiver position. The Irish added Jayden Thomas on Friday, giving them the best trio of the Brian Kelly era – and easily since the days of Notre Dame’s recruiting machine of the late ’80s/early ’90s.
With Jayden Thomas in this class, Notre Dame has three top-250 caliber wide receivers in a single class. Thomas joined the two top-100 caliber receivers the Irish already had onboard – Lorenzo Styles and Deion Colzie.
This is the kind of wide receiver class that can close the gap with the Clemsons and Alabamas of the college football world. Every position might not be there yet, but it is significant that the Irish have a class like this at wide receiver given its importance in the modern game – and the issues we’ve seen at times at the position.
Notre Dame has had some tremendous wide receivers over the last few years. Chase Claypool, Miles Boykin, Will Fuller, and even Equanimeous St. Brown have all had their times as dominant players. What the Irish haven’t had, though, is two of those receivers playing at a high level at the same time. Claypool and Boykin were both on the 2018 Playoff team, but Claypool hadn’t reached the levels we saw him reach last year at that point, and the two played the same position.
The great thing about the trio of Thomas, Styles, and Colzie is that not only are they an elite trio, but they are complimentary. Colzie is perfect for the boundary, Thomas for the field, and Styles in the slot. Even this year, Notre Dame’s had to move some players around and force them into positions they weren’t ideally suited for because of some injuries. Javon McKinley played the field position in the opener because Kevin Austin wasn’t available and Northwestern transfer Bennett Skowronek, who also got hurt, is most definitely a boundary player.
Think back to Clemson’s comfortable victory over Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl in the 2018 Playoffs. Yeah, Trevor Lawerence dropped a few dimes, but he was also throwing the ball up to a group of elite receivers who made some ridiculous catches. Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross on the outside and Hunter Renfrow in the slot. That is the kind of wide receiver room that Notre Dame will have moving forward – especially after adding Jordan Johnson, Xavier Watts, and Jay Brunelle in the class of 2020.
When Notre Dame has had big, hulking receivers like Boykin, they haven’t had deep threats. When they’ve had speed demons like Will Fuller, they haven’t had the big-bodied receivers. They should not be an issue in the future with the wide receiver class the Irish have lined up to sign in December.
If the Irish can get healthy, and it looks like they are close to it, they could have a complimentary trio but what 2020 has already shown us is that the depth isn’t there yet. Back to back classes with complementary receivers, however, should change that.
We probably won’t know for a few weeks what the wide receiver trio of Austin, Lenzy, and Lawrence Keys is capable of in Notre Dame’s offense as Austin eases back into action starting next week after being sidelined for two months following foot surgery. We now know that having a group of receivers like that should be the norm, not the exception shortly.
Notre Dame still needs the talent at quarterback to improve to close the gap anymore, but there is a chance that Tyler Buchner is the kind of talent to do just that. However, the top 100 talent could have really used his senior season for further development given he has only one season of high school football at a low competition level. Still, we know the talent and potential is there.
If Buchner does have the goods, he will have an arsenal of weapons with this wide receiving class adding to an already strong wide receiver room. We’ve also seen how much talent the Irish have at tight end in the younger classes with Michael Mayer flashing elite skills already.
Combine all of this with the development of the running back position in the early parts of 2020 with sophomore Kyren Williams, freshman Chris Tyree, and junior C’bo Flemister (who has two years of eligibility left); and the future of the Irish offense looks very, very bright.