Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 25, 2017

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

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Page 6 of 55 SEPT. 25, 2017 7 BY LOU SOMOGYI " D epth" is not merely about numbers, but people who can consistently contribute in all facets of the game. The 2017 Notre Dame receiving corps is Exhibit A. The Fighting Irish have 12 wideouts on scholarship, and in the preseason the group was rated the fourth-best receiver/tight end contingent in the country by Lindy's. However, it was not the receiving corps' finest hour during the 20-19 loss to Georgia. The Bulldogs scheme centered on getting physical with ju- nior Equanimeous St. Brown — the go-to figure for junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush — and employing two-deep coverage that helped limit him to two catches for 16 yards. "They were going to force us to throw it to somebody else," head coach Brian Kelly said, noting that St. Brown was still targeted 20 times in the game. "We needed to be better in the running game, and somebody else had to pick us up. "We had that kind of emerging, where we made some catches with other receivers because they were taking a lot of their efforts towards EQ. We just weren't consistent enough." Through two games, graduate transfer Cameron Smith's seven catches averaged only 7.7 yards, although against the Bulldogs he found some openings to nab four grabs for 44 yards. Meanwhile, fellow graduate trans- fer Freddy Canteen's one reception in two games gained seven yards. (Canteen also injured his shoulder versus Georgia, which might sideline him for some time.) Junior Chris Finke caught all three of his passes in the fourth quarter, including a couple of 17-yard gains crossing the middle into dangerous hitting territory. "We're begging for somebody," Kelly said of finding a consistent complement or two for St. Brown. "We've been rolling guys out there, waiting for guys to just show them- selves and make some plays. "… We're going to keep rolling them out there. I think Chris showed himself as being a guy now that has made some plays." Some might question just how much "rolling out" there has been. • In the first two games, junior C.J. Sanders, the team's top kick return man, did not see a snap on offense, despite catching 24 passes last year. • Junior Miles Boykin was a favor- ite target with his 6-4 frame during a strong spring, but did not see a snap against Temple and only eight versus Georgia. • Another big target who dis- played "flashes" this spring — 6-4, 228-pound sophomore Chase Clay- pool — totaled only four snaps ver- sus Georgia. • Sophomore Javon McKinley, the top-rated receiver among the Irish players, has yet to see action. "Just attention to detail," Kelly re- plied when asked why the aforemen- tioned quartet had barely played, if at all, the first two contests. "Assign- ments, getting lined up, just every day in practice. They're going to get there. It's a long season. "You'll see them, but it's just taken a little bit longer for them to get those traits where they need to be. They're getting better each week." Meanwhile, sophomore Kevin Stepherson — whose 25 catches last season averaged 18.5 yards — is reportedly sidelined the first four weeks because of a suspension that the university can neither confirm or will deny. Kelly hinted the area would crys- tallize more versus Boston College. Per College Football Film Room on Twitter, Notre Dame dropped 13 passes the first two games after mishandling only 24 all of last year. A few of them have been by highly heralded junior tight end Alizé Mack, who did grab a 32-yard pass to set up a score versus Georgia but has been rusty after sitting out last season. One way or the other, the 2017 Notre Dame receiving corps is ex- pected to catch on better overall. ✦ UNDER THE DOME Facing a defensive scheme designed to limit his impact, St. Brown managed just two recep- tions for 16 yards in Notre Dame's 20-19 loss to Georgia Sept. 9. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL RECEIVERS ARE TRYING TO CATCH ON Help is needed to take pressure off Equanimeous St. Brown

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