The month of July brings us close to the beginning of another fall camp for Notre Dame football. With practices set to begin soon we are taking a look at each position group ahead of the workouts. First up, the wideouts.
Where We Left Off in Spring
Four receivers were off the roster for the New Year while a 5th (Freddy Canteen) spent most of spring banged up and recently transferred to Tulane for his 5th-year of eligibility. A passing of the torch was needed and coalesced quickly once winter passed and the sun returned over South Bend.
Everyone seemed pleasantly surprised with the growth from the remaining players. Miles Boykin built off his game-winning touchdown in the bowl game. Chase Claypool found more consistency. Michael Young struggled with some injuries but found himself working as a starter when he was healthy.
It was largely an unproven bunch that got a lot of reps without any drama. It was tough to ask for more during the spring.
Number One Camp Storyline
For me, it’s a mixture of assessing the 2018 ceiling of the veterans (this term used loosely) in conjunction with the talent of the freshmen, including Avery Davis in that mix too.
There have been reports that Joe Wilkins Jr. has been cross-training at corner and receiver which is interesting for a couple reasons. One, there are only 4 veteran corners–the staff just never seems worried about having too few corners while never being comfortable with fewer than 10 receivers. Even though receiving depth has been traditionally meager during games and it wasn’t that long ago the staff acted like it was impossible to train someone at nickel corner. Go figure.
Two, fellow freshman Tariq Bracy could also end up cross-training too. Three, add it all up and there could be 5 or 6 true freshmen fighting for playing time during camp. That is so many new faces for Brandon Wimbush.
Whatever happens, one of these freshmen is going to step into the spotlight right away. Most like the odds of Kevin Austin (I can hear the Kelly praises in one of his first press conferences already) or perhaps Braden Lenzy’s speed making waves in a much-needed area for the offense. Especially with the new redshirt rule you’d imagine a borderline guy from the past is going to be accelerated into gameplans by the second half of camp.
Anticipation Level: 7/10
There’s a real possibility not much changes from the spring and Kevin Austin quickly becomes the lone freshman in the mix. If so, this anticipation level drops hard. Although, if Austin is the real deal that could be pretty fun in its own right. It’s not like there are a trio of 5-star freshmen let’s not get too carried away!
In the past I’ve made it known I’m not really buying stock on this receiving corps. To spin that in a positive light, there’s still so much about everyone that we don’t know yet. No one is approaching their final year of eligibility and I count an amazing 32 years of eligibility remaining among them all. Miles Boykin looks to be stepping up into a starter, and certainly more of a leader, and I really couldn’t tell you if he’s going to be disappointing, quite solid, or surprisingly effective.
My eye is focused on 3 players for the upcoming camp:
1 Michael Young – No one has benefited more from the vacuum of roster attrition than Young. Perhaps a bit unfair to say he’s been handed a starting job from nothing–but his spot is far from assured after 4 catches as a freshman and a dinged-up spring. I wouldn’t be shocked in the least if Austin joins Claypool and Boykin as the top 3 later in camp with even better odds for October and beyond.
2 Chris Finke – He’s good and sometimes great in practices but it’s never truly manifested itself in games. Can he possibly carve out more playing time at his size? Or will the bigger slot players sometimes favored by Chip Long (plus flexed tight ends) keep Finke as someone perpetually in the 150 to 200 snap region?
3 Javon McKinley – This smells like a big camp for the Californian to put him on the track to become a contributor and valued upperclassman or someone who is going to slink back into the shadows on his way to a grad transfer down the road. He showed a pulse during the spring which was nice and now needs to hold off a lot of younger players as he’s still fighting the older players for respect.