I know what you’re thinking. “C’mon Greg. Notre Dame playing a freshman at receiver? Why are you wasting your time?” It’s a fair point. A lot of us spent a good portion of the 2020 season wondering where Jordan Johnson and Xavier Watts were at the receiver positions. (The correct answer to that question was “not on the field”.) Nevertheless, I’m dipping my toe into the “play a freshman at receiver” pool one more time, because Styles is a little different from your standard freshman receiver. And he’ll have an advantage Watts was supposed to have and Johnson did not: he’s getting a head start.
Lorenzo Styles Is On Campus Right Now
Right now, as I’m writing this, Lorenzo Styles is on Notre Dame’s campus. He’s going to workouts, he’s going to class, he’s with the team, he’s doing things Notre Dame players do when they are enrolled. If a player is to make a difference as a freshman, this is the very best way. (I could make this very same case had he not been an early enrollee, he’s that good, but I don’t have to, because he’s in South Bend.)
Watts also enrolled early, but he got one practice into the spring and then everything stopped, as we all remember. No practices, no workout program, nothing. He went home. Jordan Johnson was always coming later, so the early entrant advantage was never with him. So, if you’re looking for things to align with Styles, first things first, and he’s checked that box.
Styles Can Hurt The Defense Multiple Ways
The thing Styles has that is unique is his versatility and his comfort with having the football. Don’t be alarmed by this, but Rocket was similar in this respect, as was Golden Tate. Just get them the ball some kind of way and let them do things. Pickerington High School got the ball to Styles multiple ways. They threw it to him deep, they threw it to him medium, they threw him screens, they gave him jet sweeps, they pitched it to him out of the backfield, he returned punts, and he returned kickoffs. All of the ways a player can get the ball, that’s what they did. And Styles was obviously effective.
He’s very comfortable weaving in and out of traffic, he is not afraid to take contact, and similar to Tate and Ismail, he has a way of bouncing off of defenders and staying on his feet. There is also an instinctiveness to his movements with the ball; some players just have a knack for where defenders are even when they have their back to the play. This happens throughout his highlight package; he gets the ball short somewhere, but he makes one key cut that compromises the defense and he’s off to the races. It’s an awareness that can’t really be taught, it’s a feel for the game.
No One Like Styles On The Offense
So, I ask you, who on the Notre Dame offense has a skill set similar to Lorenzo Styles? The correct answer is no one. The most alike is Avery Davis, but he isn’t the dynamic type of player Styles is. Davis will get what the play is executed to get. Nothing wrong with that, but the improvisation we see from Styles is not a level we’ve seen from Davis in his time at Notre Dame. Styles will turn a dump off pass into a 40 yard play, a little five yard route in the middle of a zone into a mad scramble to the goal line.
This is the type of explosiveness that you don’t have to scheme for, or require a quarterback with a big arm or a perfect play call and pass blocking. It’s the type of explosiveness that scares defenses from play to play.
Find A Way To Get Him Touches
Given all that I’ve said above, it’s my big idea to commit to getting this player the ball as much as possible in 2021. He’s got a skill set the rest of the roster doesn’t possess, he’s already on campus, and he’s got tremendous pedigree. Not getting him involved would simply be a failure, there would be no other way to put it.
Plus, the possibilities are endless as far as what can be done with the rest of the receiving corps. You’ve got Austin, Johnson, Watts, and Colzie who are bigger players who can work downfield, not to mention what the Irish have at tight end, and then someone like Styles who loves to work in and around the defense. This is what the offense was missing last season, just from a personnel stand point, and again, it doesn’t require a generational talent at quarterback to take advantage of. So commit to it, commit to getting this player involved. Not doing so only does a favor to the defense and we’ve done them enough favors already.