Notre Dame‘s lack of experienced depth at receiver could be opening up the door for some younger players to step in to more significant roles in 2013.
Mike Denbrock, Notre Dame’s receivers coach, suggested that starting jobs will be up for grabs leading up to the 2013 season. That includes incoming players such as James Onwualu, a four-star athlete in Notre Dame’s Class of 2013, and Corey Robinson, a four-star receiver out of Texas.
“We’re kind of trying to find a way to incorporate everybody that we’ve got available to us right now kind of in the mix, and kind of put them in some different places and give some other guys some opportunities,” Denbrock said [via ESPN.com]. “Anytime that you’re a little bit short numbers-wise, you’ve got to find them somewhere. So we’re not going to practice any shorter, we’re not going to take any fewer reps, so we’ve got to find bodies to do it.”
Notre Dame’s leading receiver last year was tight end Tyler Eifert (pictured above), who is moving on to the NFL after leading the Irish with 685 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 50 receptions. Denbrock compared Robinson to Eifert in terms of catch radius and his football I.Q.
“Great ball skills, good knowledge of the game of football, surprisingly, even though he’s from a small school in Texas and is basketball-oriented maybe family-wise, but has done a really nice job.” [via ESPN.com]
Notre Dame also loses receivers Davonte Neal and Justin Ferguson to transfers. Neal, a four-star recruit from Arizona and a freshman in 2012, had one catch for a loss of five yards last season. Ferguson, a sophomore, was a three-star recruit out of Florida. Neither player played much of a role on the team last season, but the loss of two scholarship receivers still leaves the position in a state of flux this spring.
TJ Jones was second on the team in receiving last season, with 649 yards and four touchdowns on 50 receptions. He should assume a starting role, leaving a couple of spots in the offense still to fill. The Irish will open the job for any one, from current receivers, athletes and even defensive backs looking for more playing time.
Notre Dame completed an undefeated regular season last season, but relied mostly on the play of the defense. Brian Kelly has done a solid job in turning things around in South Bend but the relative lack of athleticism was evident in the BCS Championship Game against Alabama. Kelly and his staff are now looking to make the use of the athletes they are bringing in with hopes of finding players who can break a big play. In football, you look for your receivers to be able to do just that. The question here is whether or not Kelly has enough options to rely on for Notre Dame to make another serious BCS title run in 2013.
Right now, it looks like slim pickings.
Follow Kevin McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.