Notre Dame’s recruiting class of 2018 took its second major hit last week when Braden Lenzy abruptly decommitted and flipped to Oregon. The decommitment was not seen coming by many as Lenzy was a vocal recruiter for Notre Dame since committing himself in the winter. His flip, however, seems very final leaving Notre Dame with just one receiver committed in a year they reportedly hope to land four.
Before jumping into how Notre Dame will replace Lenzy in this year’s recruiting cycle, let’s take a look at what the depth chart will look like in 2018 when the impact of Lenzy’s decommit will be felt on the field and not just in mythical recruiting rankings.
Who Is Coming Back in 2018?
There is only one wide receiver on the 2017 Notre Dame roster who will exhaust their NCAA eligibility this fall – recent graduate transfer Cameron Smith from Arizona State. There has been speculation though that Equanimeous St. Brown could head to the NFL early if he builds upon his breakout sophomore season with a huge junior year ala Will Fuller.
Even if St. Brown were to leave for the NFL, Notre Dame will have nine scholarship wide receivers on its roster for 2018 barring any transfers for medical hardships.
- 5th Year: Freddy Canteen
- Seniors: CJ Sanders, Miles Boykin, Chris Finke
- Juniors: Chase Claypool, Kevin Stepherson, Javon McKinley
- Sophomores: Jafar Armstrong, Michael Young
Even with more than 10% of the roster for 2018 already allocated to the position, Notre Dame was expected to load up at the position in this recruiting cycle though. With that in mind, let’s look at who’s already on board, who could be next, and the top remaining targets.
Who Is Committed for the Class of 2018?
The only wide receiver committed for 2018 at this point is Micah Jones. The 6’5″, 200 lbs target is definitely more of a boundary wide receiver in the mold of Miles Boykin. He will not be running by defenders the way Lenzy will on the college level, but he has tremendous ball skills for a prep wide receiver and is a great start for the Irish.
Could Kevin Austin Be Next to Commit?
Notre Dame could replace Lenzy – from a numbers perspective at least – by the end of the summer with Florida native Kevin Austin. There has been a lot of positive momentum building for Notre Dame in the race for composite 4-star wide receiver. The 247 Sports Crystal Ball currently sits at 100% in favor of the Fighting Irish for Austin.
Should Notre Dame lock up Austin it would give the Irish one of the best all around wide receivers in the class of 2018. Austin has been climbing the ladder on 247’s Composite Rankings recently moving from 154 to 140 overall in the country.
Austin announced on April 30 that he will be committing soon but since then there hasn’t been much movement.
Notre Dame’s Top Remaining Targets
Amon-Ra St. Brown and Kamryn Babb are the two headliners among the remaining wide receiver targets for Notre Dame. St. Brown, the younger brother of Notre Dame’s #1 wide receiver Equanimeous, is a 5-star prospect and has Notre Dame in his top three but Stanford is the reported favorite and Notre Dame is fading.
Notre Dame is not completely out of it though and has a chance here if they have a big bounce back season. Rumors are the St. Brown family were not fans of the old strength and conditioning program. The new program with Matt Ballis and Dave Ballou has, by all accounts, been revitalized and modernized though.
Momentum was building for Notre Dame with Babb shortly after signing day but things have cooled a lot here and Ohio State and Michigan State are named favorites. Notre Dame has to get Babb on campus this fall and has to have a better on field product to be able to get back in there. The good news is Babb released a top 9 a few weeks ago and the Irish were included.
Here are some other top targets Notre Dame has been heavily recruited for a while.
- Chase Cota – Things looked good here for the composite 4-star WR at one point too, but Oregon appears to be the favorite now. Cota’s friendship with Lenzy likely will only solidify that lead.
- Lawrence Keys III – One of the most dynamic wide receivers in this year’s class. Keys could replace the speed that Notre Dame lost with Lenzy. Notre Dame is trying to get him to campus this summer. Keys released a Top 13 in late May with the Irish included but this one has a ways to go.
- Tommy Bush – Bush was an underrecruited prospect in the early spring but has blown up since. Notre Dame was in early but now is one of many schools fighting for Bush.
New Names Will Emerge
Right before news of the Lenzy decommitment broke, Notre Dame offered a couple new wide receivers – Geordon Porter and Kobe Smith. Notre Dame likely had a heads up from Lenzy and started working on getting their next set of offers out. Porter and Smith most likely won’t be the last either. Remember, Jafar Armstrong who just reported to campus last week didn’t have a Notre Dame offer until late the recruiting process.
The loss of Braden Lenzy was a big hit for Notre Dame because of the speed that he would have brought to the Notre Dame wide receiving corps. Notre Dame does not have many players with that kind of pure speed. That said, they do have some time to make up for this loss between now and Signing Day(s). If Notre Dame can add Austin before the end of the summer and work some magic with Babb or St. Brown, they will be more than fine at the position.
Notre Dame’s new offense should help them on the receiver front this fall as well. Chip Long’s offense should use a lot of wide receivers in a variety of ways. Brian Kelly and his staff have some work to do at the wide receiver position, but they have the time to rebound from this decommitment and still land a dynamic wide receiver class.