Last week we started to evaluate each of the positions in Notre Dame’s class of 2014 starting with the quarterback spot. Today we take a look at the players the quarterback will be throwing the ball to most frequently – the wide receivers.
Who Notre Dame got: Notre Dame landed a pair of dynamic wide receivers in the class of 2014.
- Justin Brent (6’1″, 204 lbs, Indianapolis, IN) – A big, physical wide receiver who is built more like a college senior instead of a high school senior. Brent enrolled early at Notre Dame after being one of the first members of the class of 2014. The Notre Dame staff was one of the first to identify Brent as an elite talent well before he rose to being a 4-star recruit. Brian Kelly raved about Brent’s physical attributes on Signing Day stating that Brent doesn’t look like a freshman. Brent played most of his senior season at running back though and will benefit from his early start as he focuses on being a wide receiver.
- Corey Holmes (6’2″, 176, Pembroke Pines, FL) – Holmes is taller than Brent, but not nearly as put together at this point weighing in at almost 30 lbs lighter than his classmate. Holmes has more top end speed though and compares favorably to TJ Jones. Holmes, however, has almost 3 inches on the soon to be NFL wide receiver which creates some very intriguing possibilities for Holmes in the Notre Dame offense.
Who Notre Dame missed: While Notre Dame added a potentially dynamic duo at wide receiver, the one missing component most pundits have pointed to in this year’s class is a dynamic, game-breaking playmaker at wide receiver. Notre Dame had a number of targets in this mold, and at one time or another, it was reported that the Irish led for each of them. There are others Notre Dame missed on at wide receiver but these four are the big ones.
- Michiah Quick (Oklahoma) – Quick was the biggest miss at wide receiver for Notre Dame this year. The consensus 4-star wide receiver was thought to be favoring Notre Dame for much of his senior season, but in the end he signed with Oklahoma over Notre Dame. Usually when Notre Dame loses out on an elite California prospect it’s to USC, UCLA, or some other Pac 10 school. Losing Quick to Oklahoma hurt. Had Quick signed with Notre Dame on Signing Day this class would have had the cherry on top it ended up missing.
- Ishaiah McKenzie (Georgia) – One of the absolute weirdest recruitment sagas I can ever remember. McKenzie committed to Notre Dame in the fall without being qualified and stated his love for Notre Dame and what it would mean for him to enroll at the University. Immediately upon getting his academics in order, McKenzie decided to open up his recruitment and visited Florida and Ole Miss before being scheduled for a trip to Notre Dame that everyone thought would end his recruitment. At the last minute though, McKenzie visited Virginia Tech instead and Notre Dame had to drop McKenzie since he had never met with admissions. McKenzie ended up signing with Georgia out of nowhere on Signing Day to cap off a recruitment that made Aaron Lynch’s recruiting journey seem boring. McKenzie is an electric playmaker that could have sparked the Notre Dame return game but his recruitment also did not necessarily fit the profile of a recruit that excels at Notre Dame.
- Allen Lazard (Iowa State) – Lazard, Rivals.com’s #7 rated wide receiver, committed to instate Iowa State very early and despite repeated attempts to get him on campus, Notre Dame was unable to flip the talented wide receiver. Lazard stuck with Iowa State in the end and then Cyclones head coach Paul Rhodes ripped Notre Dame and Iowa for trying to flip him during his Signing Day presser. Apparently that sort of stuff never happened while Rhodes was the DC at Auburn. Lazard ended up being a huge loss for Notre Dame since they also lost out on McKenzie and Quick.
- Charles Nelson (Oregon) – Notre Dame was recruiting Nelson and McKenzie at the same time and much like the loss of Lazard, it didn’t seem like a huge blow when he eliminated Notre Dame because things looked good for McKenzie and Quick. With both signing elsewhere though, it sure would have been nice had the Irish been able to add the speedy Nelson to the class of 2014.
How Notre Dame addressed their needs: Notre Dame did an excellent job securing the commitments of Brent and Holmes early to give them two great outside wide receivers in this year’s class. The one missing component though, is a playmaker for the slot position. Had Notre Dame landed any of the four players above, this year’s wide receiver class would have been about as perfect of a complement to the banner crop of wide receivers the Irish signed last year as anyone could have hoped for. Not getting a playmaking wide receiver who can contribute in the return game as well though is one of the more glaring holes in this year’s class.
What makes the absence of a playmaker in the slot so frustrating is that Notre Dame was felt to be leading for each of the four players outlined above at one time or another. Many experts on 247 Sports had Notre Dame in their Crystal Ball predictions right up until Signing Day for Quick. McKenzie was “committed” to Notre Dame while he got his academics in order even though Notre Dame could not accept the commitment at the time. Many felt Notre Dame was easily going to be able to flip Lazard from Iowa State. And Nelson was thought to be a possible commitment candidate on his official visit by some. Notre Dame has candidates for the slot on the roster now – most notably Torii Hunter who has four years of eligibility left after sitting out 2013 following his broken leg – but they could have really used another candidate in this year’s class.
Early needs for 2015: Heading into the 2014 season, Notre Dame doesn’t have a scholarship wide receiver who will exhaust their eligibility after this year. Including the 2014 freshmen, Notre Dame will have 9 scholarship wide receivers on the roster with the remaining eligibility heading into the season.
- 4 years: Corey Holmes, Justin Brent, Torii Hunter Jr
- 3 years: Corey Robinson, James Onwaulu, Will Fuller, CJ Prosise
- 2 years: Davaris Daniels, Chris Brown
- 1 year: None
With a big senior season, Daniels could leave for the NFL (assuming his academics are all in order after missing this spring semester), but other than that, he is the only potential loss at wide receiver outside of a transfer or position change. With that in mind, Notre Dame will not be pressed for numbers at wide receiver this year so look for Notre Dame to again be selective in their recruitment of wide receivers in this year’s class. Notre Dame needs a game changing type receiver this year – that much is a must. Outside of that, Notre Dame could look to take a big receiver in the mold of Corey Robinson for another red-zone target as Brian Kelly attempts to fix Notre Dame’s red-zone woes moving forward – or look to add another all-around wide receiver like Brent or Holmes. A big season from the Notre Dame offense could drum up interest from some elite talent and allow Notre Dame to be selective this year.
Grade (B): I love the additions of Holmes and Brent. Both have the ability to be big time college wide receivers at some point in their careers although both will need some work fine tuning their games. The talent is definitely there though for both to excel in this offense. Individually, Holmes and Brent are elite prospects, but striking out at adding that slot receiver take s a little bit of the luster off of this position as a whole. Had Notre Dame landed Quick, McKenzie, Lazard, or Nelson, this group would have easily been an A+ effort. Talent wise the Irish added A level talent. They just came up short on adding one additional component to push them over the top at wide receiver.