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The Wide Receiver Room Fallout: Where Do The Irish Go From Here?

Written by Connor Regan|Writer|

Photo by The Irish Tribune


To be completely honest, this article has been edited and amended three times now because of all the breaking news from the wide receiver room, and I truly hope this is the last draft.


The great game of off-season musical chairs has begun with a bang, complete with all the coaching changes, transfer portal announcements, commitments, and de-commitments one could ask for. Not to be spared, Notre Dame's off-season chronicle has come early this year before a bowl game selection has even been announced. Arguably the most criticized position group of the season, the wide receivers, have already seen quite the shakeup. It's been a constantly evolving whirlwind, but this is the new reality. Let's take a look at what's happened so far.


  • 11/28 - Senior wide receiver and position leader Chris Tyree announced he will be entering the transfer portal.

  • 11/28 - Shortly after Tyree's announcement, Coach Marcus Freeman parted ways with second-year wide receiver coach Chansi Stuckey.

  • 11/29 - The following day, sophomore wide receiver Tobias Merriweather announced his entrance into the transfer portal.

  • 11/30 - 4-star freshman Braylon James announced he would be leaving the Irish and submitting his name to the transfer portal.

  • 12/01 - Leading Freshman wide receiver Rico Flores Jr. announces his intention to enter the transfer portal.


There's a lot that can be said about each of these decisions; inarguably, the departure of standout freshman Rico Flores Jr. is the worst blow of the bunch. The Tyree situation is understandable, as he would be splitting time between the emerging freshmen Jaden Greathouse and Jordan Faison. Merriweather's announcement is disappointing, but his time at Notre Dame was underwhelming, and his contribution shouldn't be too difficult for the team to replace. It's been the worst-kept secret in South Bend that Braylon James was looking to leave the team via the portal, and as disappointing as that is, he was the only healthy player among the stacked freshman wide receiver class who didn't seem much playing time this year, as he concluded the season with 1 reception for 12 yards.


At a time where there are still many unknowns, let's take a look at what Notre Dame should be bringing back to the table at the start of next season (barring any wild curveballs I'm praying don't happen).





What Remains

Notre Dame is essentially split into three groups concerning its wide receivers:

  1. Experience

    1. Jayden Thomas - Junior - 4 Star

    2. Deion Colzie - Junior - 4 Star

  2. 2023 Freshman Class

    1. Jaden Greathouse - 4 Star

    2. Jordan Faison - Walk-On

    3. KK Smith- 3 Star

  3. Stacked Incoming 2024 Class

    1. Cam Williams - 5 Star

    2. Micah Gilbert - 4 Star

    3. Logan Saldate - 4 Star


The Slot

While Tyree had a solid showing this year, his numbers were comparable to both Jaden Greathouse and Jordan Faison, making the pain of his absence sting less. With Tyree gone, the slot position is now wide open, and time could easily be split between Jaden Greathouse and Jordan Faison. But due to the exodus from the wide receiver core, Jaden Greathouse will more than likely be fighting for the X/Y receiver position. For the sake of comparison, Greathouse will be left at the slot position for now.in

This season was truly a tale of two halves for Greathouse and Faison.


Jaden Greathouse started the season as Tyree's backup at the slot and had a strong showing through the first 5 games, picking up 12 receptions for 166 yards and 3 TDs, all while playing more snaps than Tyree in 3 of those 5 games. Greathouse became one of Sam Hartman's favorite targets early on, but he would unfortunately suffer a hamstring injury that kept him out of the Duke game and nagged him for several weeks after. Partly due to the hamstring injury and partly due to Mitchell Evans showing out and Jordan Faison getting activated, Greathouse saw a 5-game slide where he didn't catch a ball but put on a stellar performance in the final two games of the season, where he notched 4 catches for 86 yards and 2 TD's. While Greathouse is not quite the speedster Tyree was, the coaching staff was impressed by his elusiveness and propensity for yards after the catch, making him an ideal slot candidate. Despite these slot skills, Greathouse is 3 inches taller than Tyree at 6' 1, which makes him versatile enough to play outside and send deep when needed. Greathouse ended the season with an encouraging 16 receptions for 252 yards and a team-leading 5 TD grabs, showing encouraging signs for his next step in 2024. Greathouse looks to be in the lead spot for the slot, although, depending on team needs, he may see time on the outside at the X or Y position.




Jordan Faison was a walk-on lacrosse player who was activated against Louisville and quickly earned a scholarship. In the 6 games he played, Faison was able to post 14 catches for 207 yards and 3 TDs. Much like Tyree, Faison is on the smaller end at 5 '10 and nearly as fast, but with an even twitchier elusiveness, especially with the ball in his hands. During his 6-game stretch, Faison mostly played out of the slot, with lots of action over the middle of the field and even some deep threat capacity due to his ability to create separation downfield. By the end of the 2023 season, Faison grabbed 14 passes for 207 yards and tied for 3rd in TD receptions with 3. It was a solid season, but even more impressive considering he managed these numbers while only playing half the season.


Rounding out the current slot options is KK Smith, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury his whole first season. Smith should be coming into the 2024-2025 season healthy and looking to compete for playing time at the slot with his striking speed and yards-after-catch potential.


The X/Y

With Rico Flores Jr. and Tobias Merriweather gone, the fight for lead receiver will be wide-open. Assuming Greathouse continues to primarily play at slot and split time with Faison, coach Freeman and coach Parker will have to turn to the experience they have.


This year's wide receiver group struggled with numerous injuries that held back two of the more experienced wideouts on the roster, Jayden Thomas and Deion Colzie. Thomas had a big start to the season, with 4 catches, 60 yards, and a touchdown in the season opener, and ultimately led the Irish in receiving with 13 catches for 195 yards, but went down in the 3rd quarter of the Ohio State game, forcing him to miss the next matchup against Duke. Unfortunately, Thomas battled the hamstring issue for the remainder of the season and has seemingly not been the same since.

Colzie also had a big season opener with 3 catches for 45 yards and a touchdown, playing in the first 4 games before a knee injury shut him down and surgery ended his season. With enough time to heal before the start of next season, both Thomas and Colzie should stand to compete on the outside for playing time, as their size gives them the advantage on down-the-field positioning.


There are unknowns at the lead downfield receiver, mostly due to injury, but if Thomas and Colzie can stay healthy, the Irish are going to need to lean heavily on their experience if the wide receiver core will stay competitive.





What is to Come

The future of Notre Dame's wide receiver room looks bright as the Irish bring in 3 top-50 wide receivers next season. The shining star of the group is 6'2 10th ranked phenom Cam Williams. With college-ready size and strength, the 5-star prospect is a ready competitor for playing time this coming season, with or without team injuries. Williams will add to his preparedness by graduating and enrolling early at Notre Dame, arriving on campus to begin his transition this coming January.


Alongside Williams is the similarly large framed 6'3 4-star commit Micah Gilbert out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Gilbert follows a similar mold as Williams but possesses even more size and strength. Both incoming freshmen look to compete for playing time on the outside among the larger receivers like Thomas, Colzie, James, and Flores.


Last but not least, 4-star talent Logan Saldate looks to replace some of the lost athleticism at the slot position. Having been recruited specifically for the slot, Saldate dominated his senior year of high school and displayed his skill for running with the ball and stretching defenses. With a similar playstyle to Faison and more size, Saldate could have a relatively seamless transition to the collegiate level. Regardless, the value of having such a young talent surrounded by the likes of Greathouse and Faison will be incredibly valuable to his development.


In the wake of Chansi Stuckey leaving the program, Logan Saldate quickly stated, "I love coach Stuckey! He's a great coach! But I have faith in coach Freeman's decision and who he wants to bring in. I'm locked in! Forever Irish!" Williams also responded to the news of Stuckey's departure: "It's a hard pill to swallow for sure, but I know what my envisions are at the University of Notre Dame, and I'm excited to live them out." As for Micah Gilbert, at the moment, there has been no reported comment from the 4-star recruit out of North Carolina. Despite the coaching shakeup, it seems Freeman and his staff have quickly calmed the waters on the recruitment front.


What To Expect Next Year

Well, if I could tell you exactly how things will shake out for the Irish wide receivers next year, I would be on a yacht somewhere by now, but we can speculate if we consider all the current unknowns.

Transfers

As we have already seen, the transfer portal is hopping, even before its formal opening, yet despite the transfers out of Notre Dame, there is always potential to use the portal to bring talent in. After losing 4 receivers, including 2 starters, the Irish are absolutely going to need to bring in 2-3 transfer receivers. The top target for the offense this offseason will, without a doubt, be a quarterback. Yet, numerous talented and experienced wide receivers are already available, with more on the way as the postseason begins to take shape and the portal officially opens.


There have already been reports surrounding the Irish potentially pursuing 6'3 Clemson junior Beaux Collins and 6'1 FIU receiver Kris Mitchell. This past year, Mitchell caught 64 passes for 1,118 yards and 6 TDs in 12 games, and Collins grabbed 38 balls for 510 yards and 3 TDs in just 10 games. If they make the right moves, Notre Dame may put itself in a position to attract a talented transfer wide receiver.


Riley Leonard

Thankfully, Notre Dame seems to have solved the quarterback issue faster than expected. It's projected that Duke's junior quarterback Riley Leonard will commit to the Irish, helping to give the fledgling Irish offense an identity for next year in the wake of Sam Hartman's exit. If Riley decides on South Bend, this could quickly help to attract more big-name transfers across offense and defense as the Irish bolster their chances to compete next year, especially in the face of the first 12-team College Football Playoff.


We stand at the start of a hectic and long off-season as Notre Dame looks to flesh out its roster and open coaching staff positions in the face of what amounts to an exodus. The biggest new challenge will be making sure to keep the top talent we already have and have coming in as the hectic portal window opens and bowl games are announced. With time and a little luck of the Irish, Notre Dame can salvage its rough start to the off-season and put themselves in a better position for 2024.


3 Comments


Guest
Dec 05, 2023

1. Hey, how's the wide receiver room holding up after Chris Tyree's exit? Do you think it's gonna shake things up a lot 2. I remember you mentioning Jaden Greathouse. How do you think his skills will play out in the slot and maybe on the outside? Excited to see him in action? 3. Rico Flores Jr. and Tobias Merriweather leaving must've hit hard. What's the vibe on who's stepping up for that lead receiver spot? Jayden Thomas and Deion Colzie got it covered? 4. Transfer talk! Beaux Collins and Kris Mitchell possibly joining? How game-changing do you think that could be for plugging the gaps in the lineup? 5. With all the coaching changes and players leaving, how confident are you that Notre…


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Guest
Dec 09, 2023
Replying to

I read so many articles on this site and I'm telling you, it just seems like you get it. You really know your stuff and make it feel interesting. I feel like I'm finally reading an article from someone who cares as much as me about ND! Please keep posting more and I'll keep reading.


1. Interesting take on Tyree's move to UVA. The crowded slot makes sense, though. Do you think the young receivers can fill the experience gap? 2. Excited for Greathouse in 2024! The idea of him on the outside sounds intriguing. How do you see the dynamics shifting with Flores Jr. gone? 3. Colzie and Thomas bringing in the experience, but injuries are a concern. What's the buzz…


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