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The Commitments: Wide receivers

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Part three of our series recapping the recruits ready to sign letters-of-intent with Notre Dame next Wednesday. Previous installments include running backs and offensive linemen.

The shadow that Michael Floyd‘s graduation will leave over the Irish offense likely won’t clear in just one season. (Consider even Floyd’s No. 3 jersey won’t even be in uniform next year, with transfer Amir Carlisle sitting out the 2012 season thanks to NCAA transfer rules.) But like the Irish coaching staff did last year, they evaluated their roster deficiencies and took dead aim at them. And with the Irish’s 2012 slate of receivers — even if it doesn’t grow in the next week — they’ve done an excellent job bringing in impact players that can help jump-start the evolution of Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin’s spread offense.

Floyd’s departure leaves Notre Dame with no true game-breaker at wide receiver. Theo Riddick, who Kelly thought would be his answer at the slot has been anything but, and could potentially spend his final season in blue and gold at running back. The only receiving nightmare on the Irish roster is a tight end, with All-American Tyler Eifert the team’s best option through the air. Yet there’s reason to believe this offense can take strides forward, even while losing their best player. Redshirts Davaris Daniels and Matthias Farley will have their first shot at filling the void, but come summer they’ll be joined by three impressive incoming recruits, each with some game-breaking athleticism that is in short supply on the current roster.

CHRIS BROWN
High School: Hanahan High — Hanahan, South Carolina
Measureables: Six-foot-two, 175-pounds
Other major offers: Arkansas, Clemson, Illinois, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Fun Fact: Broke South Carolina’s oldest state record with a 51-foot, 2.5 inch triple jump during his junior year.
On choosing Notre Dame: “Towards the end of the visit I was just thinking to myself that this could be a place I could go and shine,” Brown told BlueandGold.com. “There were a lot of positives about it.”
What he’ll bring to the offense: Brown might be one of the most under-the-radar players coming into Notre Dame. A collarbone injury robbed Brown of a large chunk of his senior season, but his speed and athleticism (his junior year triple-jump would’ve been eight inches shy of the Big East champion’s jump last year) will be a great blessing to go along with his six-foot-two frame. The Irish battled Steve Spurrier for Brown’s signature, and while it’ll take some time in the weight-room for Brown to be physically ready, the Irish won’t have many athletes with Brown’s ability in uniform next season. A true wildcard in the recruiting class.

JUSTIN FERGUSON
High School: Flanagan High — Pembroke Pines, Florida
Measureables: Six-foot-two, 205-pounds
Other major offers: Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami, UCF, Wisconsin
Fun Fact: One of the most impressive WRs at The Opening, the Nike’s invite-only scouting combine.
On choosing Notre Dame: “I liked them because of the education — that’s first and foremost,” Ferguson told the Sun Sentinel. “Once I got there, the coaches showed me a lot of love. They were really interested in me and told me it was the program that could benefit me the most.”
What he’ll bring to the offense: Ferguson is well put together physically, which could lead to early playing time. He reminds me a lot of a young David Givens, the highly-touted Irish wide receiver that didn’t hit his stride until joining the New England Patriots. Ferguson is a more natural receiver than Givens though, and while he might not be a true burner, he’ll be a tough assignment in the open field, whether starting at the slot or outside.

DEONTAY GREENBERRY:
High School: Washington Union — Fresno, California
Measureables: Six-foot-three, 185-pounds
Other major offers: Alabama, Cal, LSU, UCLA, USC, Washington
Fun Fact: Named Mr. Football in California after breaking yardage and 41-year touchdown catch state record.
On choosing Notre Dame: “We agreed since we were little we were going to the same college,” Greenberry said of playing with cousin Tee Shepard, an early-enrollee cornerback.
What he’ll bring to the offense: Having watched Greenberry a handful of times during his senior season, you start to think he’ll make a difference the minute he steps on campus. With jump-ball skills that rival Michael Floyd’s, Greenberry’s prodigious stats — crushing California records while leading his team to a state championship — match the physical attributes he brings to the field. It’s hard to find a receiver that’s got better game tape than Greenberry, and he’s seen his recruiting profile sky-rocket since exiting his junior year with only four scholarship offers. If there’s an offensive recruit that’s the most important on the Irish board, it’s Greenberry.

 

 

 

 

High School: Hanahan High — Hanahan, South Carolina
Measureables: Six-foot-two, 175-pounds
Other major offers: Arkansas, Clemson, Illinois, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Fun Fact: Broke South Carolina’s oldest state record with a 51-foot, 2.5 inch triple jump during his junior year.
On choosing Notre Dame: “Towards the end of the visit I was just thinking to myself that this could be a place I could go and shine,” Brown told BlueandGold.com. “There were a lot of positives about it.”
What he’ll bring to the offense: Brown might be one of the most under-the-radar players coming into Notre Dame. A collarbone injury robbed Brown of

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
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Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.

 

Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson
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Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.