Coming into the 2021 season, one of the biggest questions for the Notre Dame offense was who would step up to the wide receiver position. With Javon McKinley and Ben Skowronek moving onto the NFL, the Irish lost their top two pass catchers from the 2020 season. Outside of Avery Davis, the returning Irish receivers had a combined 20 receptions on the year. In addition to the loss of two receivers to the NFL, five of Notre Dame’s other receivers have transferred or opted out of the season. Micah Jones, Kendall Abdur- Rahman, Jordan Johnson and Jay Brunelle all left Notre Dame for other programs last spring. Lawrence Keys III will sit out the rest of the 2021 season and may transfer after graduating in December. Keys’ departure is significant, as he was set to play a major role in the offense after having a great spring and summer.
So who does that leave? Captain Avery Davis has the most experience out of the receiving corps, but seniors Kevin Austin and Braden Lenzy amassed the most hype during the offseason. Both Lenzy and Austin have been hampered by injuries throughout their time at Notre Dame thus far, but it seems as though this is the year they will finally show fans what they have been waiting for. In recent years, Lenzy and Austin have shown flashes of greatness, and this year the two will need to play at that level throughout the season for the passing game to have success.
Behind Davis, Austin and Lenzy are Joe Wilkins Jr. and freshman Lorenzo Styles. Those are the main five receivers for Notre Dame in the 2021 season, and beyond them is an unknown, but young and talented, group. In 2020, Wilkins recorded seven catches with one touchdown, and this year he could increase that output with a bigger role in the offense. Styles was one of Notre Dame’s best recruits in the 2021 class.
This season, defenses may overlook the wide receiver group to focus on Notre Dame’s other talented skill position players like tight end Michael Mayer and running back duo Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree. If defenses decide to do this and put more focus on those near the line of scrimmage, it will allow the receiving corps to show off the talent they have. When given one-on-one matchups, all of Notre Dame’s receivers can take advantage, and quarterback Jack Coan will look to find them in those situations.
Although this year’s wide receiving corps has some question marks, the talent within this group is not up for debate. This group’s success will be dependent on their ability to show off their experience and to take advantage of the favorable opportunities they will see. If the receivers perform well, this Notre Dame offense could be very different from the Notre Dame offenses of the past few years.