Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 30, 2017

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

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16 OCT. 30, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED "You can talk football and you can grow from each other and see the game from a different perspective," he said. "It's helped me grow, and that's been important." The most noticeable adjustment between high school and college, Claypool said, is the level of talent around him. "In high school, I played to my competition level a little bit more," he said. "It was a challenge [coming to Notre Dame] and much harder than high school ball, but not too much of a challenge. It was eye open- ing how good everyone is. "Last year I was just playing in practice, and that helped me adjust to the game naturally. Going full tilt, you realize how much better you could've been in high school instead of putting on the brakes a bit. "You have to practice fast because the speed of the game is quick and fast. That was the biggest adjust- ment, but when you know you have to play fast every play, you adjust." Claypool learned that lesson in 2016 while starring on special teams for Notre Dame. He led the special teams units in tackles, and his physi- cality has carried over into a produc- tive role as a blocker. In first-year coordinator Chip Long's offense, Claypool has moved around at the different receiver positions. "Sometimes you line up, and you're just not sure," Claypool said. "You're second-guessing and running 50 per- cent because you don't want to mess up. When you know the play, you're not thinking about the route. You're thinking about where the defenders are, and that helps you. "I wasn't really sure what my role would be. I was on a lot of the special teams units again, and I was com- pletely okay with that. I love special teams. Then in fall camp I was mov- ing around slot, outside, and then Coach [Brian] Kelly comes to me a week before [the season opener] and said, 'We want to try you on the out- side and keep you there.' "When I was able to focus on one position, that's when I was able to develop. Playing the position I am has allowed me to play freely with- out thinking of all the different po- sitions around me. Now that I've played each spot, I can move around and know what I'm doing." Claypool's emergence was ce- mented in the final two games of September. At Michigan State, the 6-4½ receiver caught four passes for 56 yards, and the next week against Miami (Ohio) he snagged his first career touchdown reception. Prior to the bye, he led the wideouts in snaps three straight weeks. He's moved from "flashes" to better consistency. "I'm in between flashes and want- ing him to elevate," Kelly said. "We think he's capable of being a very nice piece to putting our wide receiver corps together. "He's big, he's athletic, he can catch the football — we can get some nice matchups with him. But he's a young player, and the game is still evolving for him. I'm excited about Chase, love his work ethic during the week, and hope that it becomes elevated and it continues to grow." During the first half of the season, Claypool saw snaps at slot and even at Equanimeous St. Brown's bound- ary spot, but he especially has found a home on the outside. "I like being out there a lot," he said. "My teammates have been try- ing to help me out, and we're trying to win. Last year it was [contributing] in a different way with special teams and being on most of those units and trying to help my team out there. "Every chance I get I obviously want to make my team better and give the team a chance to win, and this year's it's on offense." Whether it's adjusting as a fresh- man or emerging as a sophomore, Claypool keeps himself grounded by appreciating this experience. "Where I come from, no one has had an opportunity like this," he said. "My mom is a huge motivator. She texts me every day. This is an op- portunity of a lifetime I don't want to give up and can't give up." If his growth over the past 13 months is any indication, his oppor- tunities have just begun. ✦ TALL TARGET Standing 6-4½, sophomore wideout Chase Claypool is emerging as a threat for the Irish offense "He's big, he's athletic, he can catch the football — we can get some nice matchups with him. But he's a young player, and the game is still evolving for him." HEAD COACH BRIAN KELLY ON CLAYPOOL During the first half of the season, Claypool notched 12 receptions for 144 yards and one touchdown. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA BY ANDREW OWENS C hase Claypool has come a long way, both in his journey to Notre Dame and in his path to consistent playing time with the Irish. The Abbotsford, British Columbia, native and eighth Canadian to suit up for the Irish in history will admit that last year was a bit of a learning experience for him in his transition to the United States. His high school football rules were more similar to the standard American version than what is featured in various other parts of Canada, and Claypool said he and his teammates were able to learn from each other's perspectives on the game during his freshman season.

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