Notre Dame finished the early signing period with a flash Friday night thanks to the commitment of consensus four-star speedster receiver Braden Lenzy (Tigard High School; Portland, Ore.). Lenzy’s signature ends a circuitous recruitment right back where it began.
Lenzy first committed to the Irish in February before flipping to Oregon in June, primarily citing concerns about his ability to run track at Notre Dame. When Ducks head coach Willie Taggart took the head job at Florida State, Lenzy once again reopened his commitment, narrowing the possibilities to Notre Dame, Oregon and UCLA.
“When I made my official visit [to Notre Dame] last week after opening my recruitment back up, I had this one moment of clarity that I’d been waiting for without knowing it,” Lenzy wrote in an essay announcing his commitment on The Players’ Tribune. “I was walking out of the locker room and onto the field. The weather wasn’t great — it was 30° outside and snowing — but for some reason it also seemed perfect. It was almost like an itch had finally been scratched.”
He joins consensus four-star Kevin Austin (North Broward Prep; Pompano Beach, Ill.) and rivals.com four-star Micah Jones (Warren Township; Gurnee, Ill.) to form an excellent grouping of receivers in the now 21-commit class.
When the first 20 of those, including Austin and Jones, signed Wednesday, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly pointed to receiver as an area the Irish would continue to recruit after praising the committed duo.
“Obviously, we need to continue to recruit at that position,” Kelly said. “We’re hoping to add to that position in this cycle to balance off the receiving crew.”
It is within reason Notre Dame looks for even another receiver if that player fits Kelly’s description of “best player available,” the third priority remaining behind defensive back and offensive line.
Tigard High School; Portland, Ore.
Measurements: 6’0”, 170 lbs.
Accolades: Consensus four-star; No. 13 receiver in the class per rivals.com and No. 3 prospect in Oregon.
Other Notable Offers: Lenzy could have gone nearly anywhere in the Pac-12, including USC, Stanford or Washington State. Instead, his recruitment always centered around Notre Dame and Oregon with UCLA gaining ground in the race once Chip Kelly was hired as head coach.
Projected position: Receiver
Quick Take: You can’t teach speed, and Lenzy has it. That alone will get him on the field early. Irish coach Brian Kelly has always preferred to have at least one speedster on the field to take the top off the defense. (See: Chris Brown, Will Fuller, Kevin Stepherson.) With hands providing legitimacy to that deep threat, Lenzy offers a dynamic option.
Short-Term Roster Outlook: If Lenzy had signed the first day of the early signing period, this bit would have read much differently. Then, current sophomore Kevin Stepherson would have stood staunchly between Lenzy and consistent playing time. Now, Stepherson’s future at Notre Dame is very much in doubt. Thus, Kelly and offensive coordinator Chip Long could be looking for a new deep yet shifty playmaker. Lenzy fits that bill better than any other receiver already on the roster.
Long-View Depth Chart Impact: The trio of Austin, Jones and Lenzy makes for a complete set of receivers in one class. Austin could someday be the starter at the field position (a la current junior Equanimeous St. Brown in ideal scenarios) with Jones on the boundary (think of sophomore Chase Claypool) and Lenzy in the slot but able to quickly move to a sideline to force a defense’s hand.
WNDU, the South Bend affiliate of NBC, reports Stepherson was pulled over on Dec. 14 and charged with possession of marijuana, speeding and lacking a valid driver’s license. It was just a day later he and freshman running back C.J. Holmes were arrested for shoplifting.
Suffice it to say, it is difficult to see any scenario where Stepherson remains with the Irish much longer.
RELATED READING: WR Lenzy makes 11th commitment, brings speed to Irish (Feb. 23)