Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2024

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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18 JANUARY 2024 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY JACK SOBLE O n Sept. 30, with Notre Dame running its two-minute op- eration to try to salvage a win at Duke, offensive coordinator Gerad Parker needed an idea in the event the Irish had to convert a two-point play. "What is our best zone throw?" Parker asked. "That would be Rico, Stuck?" Wide receivers coach Chansi Stuckey agreed. That would be Rico. When the Irish lined up for the two- point conversion, they didn't get the look they wanted. They expected the defender in front of Flores to play inside leverage, but he wound up playing outside. Flores was told to cut outside and look for the ball near the sideline, but he couldn't do that with the way the corner played it. Instead, Flores sat in the middle of the zone, understanding the leverage he faced. Graduate student quarterback Sam Hartman was on the same page. Easy pitch and catch. "[Flores] kind of hit it, poked out and got back out of it and made it go," Parker said later that week. "Pretty slick." "Freakin' Rico Flores!" Stuckey yelled over the headset after the score. "Play ball!" But Flores is gone, and Stuckey is, too. Flores officially entered the trans- fer portal three days after Stuckey was fired. Senior Chris Tyree and sopho- m o re To b i a s Me r r iwea t h e r, No t re Dame's Nos. 1 and 3 wide receivers last season in terms of yards (Flores was No. 2), left the Irish as well. Notre Dame head coach Marcus Free- man commented on Tyree (who will be a graduate transfer) and Flores Dec. 4. "When guys earn a degree and are seeking more playing time or a different opportunity, I'm supportive of that," Freeman said. "I'm always disappointed when a guy leaves without his degree, and so, that's really the situation with those two." Their exits headline an offseason overhaul at the wide receiver position. ENTERED THE TRANSFER PORTAL Rico Flores Jr., Fr., WR Flores played the most snaps out of any Notre Dame wide receiver because the Irish trusted him as both a pass catcher and a run-blocker in his first college season. He finished the season with 27 catches for 392 yards and 1 touchdown. He also posted the Irish's first 100-yard game by a wide receiver since the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, 2022. Chris Tyree, Sr., WR In his first year at the position, Tyree surprised a lot of people by being Notre Dame's most produc- tive wideout. Working almost exclusively from the slot, Tyree led the team with 484 yards receiving and had 3 touchdown catches. He provides offen- sive explosiveness and obvious special teams value as a kickoff and punt returner. On Dec. 5, Tyree committed to Virginia, whose campus is about an hour and 20 minutes from his hometown of Chester, Va.. He will return to Notre Dame as a visitor with the Cavaliers on Nov. 16, 2024. Tobias Merriweather, So., WR Merriweather did not have the breakout season many expected in 2023, finishing his year with 14 receptions for 284 yards — an impressive 20.3 yards per reception — and 2 touchdowns. Merriweather's physical profile — 6-foot-4, 204 pounds with track speed — gives him enormous upside, and perhaps a change of scenery will help him realize it. Braylon James, Fr., WR Freeman has said that James might have the Freshman Rico Flores Jr. (No. 17) and senior Chris Tyree (No. 4) — who combined for 53 receptions, 876 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns — were among four Irish wide receivers that entered the transfer por- tal after the conclusion of the regular season. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER OUT ROUTE Remade wide receiver room, including one stunning exit, headlines Notre Dame's transfer portal movement

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