Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2017

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

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Page 24 of 63 APRIL 2017 25 WIDE RECEIVERS N otre Dame returns plenty of op- tions at wide receiver, but outside of junior Equanimeous St. Brown there is little proven or consistent production. St. Brown led the Irish with 58 receptions, 961 receiving yards and nine touchdown catches last season, and the hope is he sees another boost in production this fall. Sophomore Kevin Stepher- son led the team with 18.5 yards per catch on his 25 re- ceptions and finished second on the team with five touchdown receptions, but he must become a more consistent player. Two more sophomores — Chase Claypool and Javon McKinley — will look to join Stepherson in the rotation. Claypool could be especially difficult to keep off the field. Junior Miles Boykin brings excellent size (6-4, 225) to the posi- tion, and he also will look to earn more opportunities in the Irish offense. The wild card on offense could be ju- nior C.J. Sanders, the team's outstanding return man who showed flashes during his sophomore season. Sanders caught 17 passes for 254 yards in the first five games, but pulled in just seven passes in the final seven games. If he can become a more consistent player he could flourish in Long's sped up offense. 9 Re c e i v i n g t o u c h d o w n s b y St. Brown in 2016, tied for 36th- most in the country. 18.5 Yards per catch by Kevin Step- herson, one of the best seasons by an Irish freshman wideout. 79.0 Percent of the receptions by wide receivers in 2016 are return- ing this season. 3,744 Career receiving yards by in- coming freshman Jafar Armstrong during his career at Bishop Miege High School in Shawnee Mission, Kan. That eclipsed the 3,596 that 2016 Irish recruit Javon McKinley had at Centennial High in Corona, Calif. — which at the time were the most by an Irish player from the high school ranks. POSITION BATTLE TO WATCH In the slot, juniors C.J. Sanders and Chris Finke split time last season. Sanders is a dynamic after-the-catch player, but he disappeared at times last season. Finke proved to be steady, although he lacks Sanders' big-play ability. On the outside, sophomore Kevin Stepherson proved himself capable of being a big-play threat, but he'll have to fight hard to hold off a pair of tal- ented classmates. Chase Claypool's combination of size, athleticism and ball skills are outstanding. Javon McKinley, the No. 11 wideout and No. 59 overall player in his class, will be pushing for a role. WHO'S GONE Torii Hunter Jr. The two-sport athlete had 38 catches for 521 yards this past season, but elected to pursue a professional baseball career instead of playing in his final season at Notre Dame. Corey Holmes The speedy Floridian caught 11 passes for 96 yards in 2016, but he announced following the season his intention to transfer for his final two seasons. WHO'S BACK Junior Equanimeous St. Brown After catching just one pass as a freshman, he became one of the country's premier receiv- ers as a sophomore, going for 961 yards and nine touchdowns. Junior C.J. Sanders The electric return man (two kick returns for scores last fall) caught 24 passes for 293 yards in 2016. Sophomore Kevin Stepherson Burst onto the scene and became the team's starting X receiver by the end of the season, catching five touchdown passes as a freshman. Sophomore Chase Claypool Caught just six passes as a freshman, but he's arguably the best athlete on the team. 2017 SPRING FOOTBALL PREVIEW Returning Returning Year-End Year Starts Receiving Yards/TD Receiving Yards/TD 2016 1 436/0 2,617/22 2017 22 2,000/19 — QUOTABLE "Guys are eager in terms of the energy, eager to see what's new. They have great energy, they're com- ing up, they're shaking my hand in- troducing themselves. It's been a pretty warm welcome." — WIDE RECEIVERS COACH DELVAUGHN ALEXANDER ON HIS INTRODUCTION TO THE TEAM'S PASS CATCHERS PHOTO BY RICK KIMBALL BY THE NUMBERS EQUANIMEOUS ST. BROWN EQUANIMEOUS ST. BROWN

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