Today is the early National Signing day for those who didn’t know. The Class of 2021 Notre Dame pledges have been inking their letters of intent to the Irtish throughout the day as Notre Dame strongly encourages their pledges to sign early.
The Irish coaching staff, like most around the country, has used the early Signing Day as a way to lock in commits. The message is simple: your spot on the team is guaranteed, but if they continue to look, the staff will as well.
As this article is being written, the Irish have signed 22 of its 24 commits, with Kahanu Kia expected to sign later today. The only drama that might come is with Loisianna running back Logan Diggs, who is committed to ND, but rumored to be considering a flip to LSU. Earlier today, Notre Dame fended off one potential flip attempt when Prince Kollie signed with the Irish. There had been some question on his commitment following the departure of Clark Lea.
Notre Dame did well with its 2021 class across the board, especially in the trenches, but one position group has the chance to make this a special class, and it’s the absolute haul the Irish brought in at receiver.
The Irish have three high-end 4-star prospects with Lorenzo Styles, Deion Colzie, and Jayden Thomas. Not only are all three guys high-end prospects, but they all have complementary skill sets.
Lorenzo Styles is the guy Notre Dame fans should be foaming at the mouth to see. Notre Dame has lacked a genuinely elite speed wide receiver. A position that the elite teams like Ohio State and Bama use to humiliate opposing defenses. Give Styles the ball and some space and watch the magic happen.
Braden Lenzy has shown flashes of what someone like this can do in the offense but has been plagued with injuries this year. Kevin Stepherson looked like he was the heir apparent to Will Fuller, but he couldn’t stay out of trouble off the field. Styles certainly can be that speed threat.
What if I told you Notre Dame was getting another big, physical receiver ala Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool? Because that’s what the Irish are getting in Colzie and Jayden Thomas.
Where Notre Dame has maybe not done well with slot receivers, the opposite can be said about their utilization of big physical guys on the outside. Thomas and Colzie personify the tough brand of football that the Irish have used as their identity in recent years.
Notre Dame has recruited talented wide receiver prospects at Notre Dame. Some have been huge successes like Chase Claypool and Will Fuller. Others have been a disappointment, like Stepherson and to this point Kevin Austin who has been plagued by injuries and off-field issues.
Misses happen for every team and every coach. It’s just part of the process. But what is separating the elite teams at college football is the depth they are recruiting at. The Alabamas and the Ohio States are landing multiple 4/5 stars at the receiver position and then pairing them together.
How exciting would it have been to see Will Fuller and Chase Claypool in the same offense? That’s essentially what Alabama has been doing every year.
The Irish have consistently been able to land a high-end receiver every year, but it’s typically one 4-star+ per cycle. That leads to significant issues when guys like Stepherson or Austin can’t get on the field due to off-field issues.
A few guys stepped up for Notre Dame this year at the position, but they can’t depend on guys switching positions like Avery Davis and transfers like Ben Skowroneck breaking out every year. They need to start recruiting the position better.
Luckily it seems like Brian kelly agrees because the three guys in this class could all turn into superstars, and no one would think twice. Last year the Irish took a step in the right direction with 5-star Jordan Johnson and 4-star Xavier Watts (along with Jay Brunelle). This year, Notre Dame upped their game even more.
What fans should appreciate about the recruitment of these three is who they beat to get them. The Irish weren’t beating out the pit of the Big10 for these guys, but beating out the powers that have dominated college football.
Lorenzo Styles’s dad played at Ohio State and grew up in Columbus, but the Irish were able to steal him and then hold off an attempt from Michigan to flip him.
Colzie went to highschool in Athens, Georgia, and had offers from everywhere, including Bama. His recruitment was definitely not easy. Colzie committed to Notre Dame last fall before opening his recruitment back up after getting pressure from Georgia. After a lot of hard work from Brian Kelly, Tommy Rees, and Del Alexander, the Irish got him in the end.
The Will Shipley recruitment certainly left a sour taste in our mouth, but Notre Dame has recently proved that it can go up against the big boys and win more than a few times.
Overall the quality of offensive skill has picked up in recruiting for the Irish, and that is where the Irish are still the furthest from the top. It should be assuring to Irish fans to know the Notre Dame coaches have put more emphasis on this, and the results are showing.
It’s great that the Irish landed these guys, but now they need to do it again in the 2022 class because that’s what the best teams do.
But for today, we can enjoy landing three guys who I expect to catch a lot of TDs.