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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 25 Braden Lenzy, speedy sophomore receiver

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Listed Measurements: 5-foot-11, 184 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Lenzy has all four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019, after not taking the field last year.
Depth chart: Lenzy should begin preseason behind junior Michael Young at the field receiver position, a spot often subjected to zone or safety-help coverages, but one where speed could prove useful in taking the top off the secondary. Fellow sophomore Joe Wilkins may push Lenzy for the honor of cracking the two-deep behind Young.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, Lenzy first committed to the Irish before flipping to Oregon and then de-commiting upon Ducks head coach Willie Taggart’s departure for Florida State. Lenzy returned to the Notre Dame fold despite a late charge from UCLA with Chip Kelly at the helm.

CAREER TO DATE
Lenzy never genuinely pushed for playing time as a freshman, instead taking a traditional redshirt. While his speed is valued, he was not yet strong enough to get past a pressing cornerback to use that speed.

QUOTE(S)
Lenzy’s back-and-forth-and-back recruitment was in part influenced by his future track prospects. With obvious reason, those pushed him toward Oregon temporarily. He has since foregone track, at least for the time being, to focus on football.

“He’s really focused on wanting to play this year,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in early March. “He felt like he needed to get stronger and he was worried about not being able to fulfill the things that he came here for, and that was to make an impact in football. He didn’t come here with his first priority being track. He would have went to Oregon if that was number one.

“I think when he settles into his niche in the football sense, he’ll go and try to run some track here, but I think he wants to find his place in football first.”

Be it that focus, the inevitable yet hand-in-hand weight room work or simple maturity, Lenzy was making his case for that impact by the end of March with an increase in his physicality.

“The one thing with Lenzy is his toughness,” Kelly said. “We like his toughness. He’s shown that play-in and play-out he’s going to stick his nose in there and get some tough yards for us.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“As a part of an excellent quartet of receivers in the class of 2018, Lenzy will need to be productive and consistent to stay ahead of the pack. It may not be until his junior season that he cracks the starting rotation, with both (Miles) Boykin and (Chase) Claypool then out of eligibility, but there would be a bounty of opportunities for a speed threat with reliable hands as the fourth receiver.

“A delay in finding a main role should not perturb Lenzy, who showed excellent maturity during a recruiting process in which fans showed the irrationality and idiocy of many of those who too closely follow the decisions of high schoolers.

“‘Not long after I announced [a de-commitment from Notre Dame to pledge to Oregon], a notification popped up on my phone for a DM from Twitter,” Lenzy wrote in an essay announcing his commitment on The Players’ Tribune. “It was from somebody saying they hoped I tore my ACL.

“‘I got another one saying negative things about my family and how I was raised.

“‘And then, I started getting some death threats.”

“Lenzy continued to explain why he had decided on the Irish in the end, before adding, ‘I want to make clear not only to those people who sent me those messages directly, but also to every other high schooler who has experienced the same thing: Negative people exist everywhere, but you can’t let them dictate how you live your life.’”

2019 OUTLOOK
Notre Dame essentially ran its top-three receivers into the ground last year. It must avoid that becoming a habit this season, no matter if Claypool, Young and fifth-year Chris Finke establish themselves as the unquestioned starters. In that respect alone, Lenzy should play.

He should also play simply because of his speed. Only senior cornerback Troy Pride can readily claim better speed than Lenzy on the Irish roster. Lenzy could provide a dimension to the offense not seen the last two years, even as Notre Dame rattled off 22 wins in 26 games.

That will become a reality only if Lenzy’s added strength carries over, along with health, into the fall. If it does, then a few chances each week may be all he needs to make a distinct impact. If Lenzy manages just a dozen catches, he could break 200 yards. Such a receiver commands respect from the opposing secondary on every snap he takes, not to mention the benefits of the rest those snaps may grant Young.

DOWN THE ROAD
The Irish will need two new starting receivers in 2020. Lenzy, and the other four sophomore receivers, will have their chances this season to make an early claim on those roles. Kevin Austin might have the highest ceiling of the bunch, but Lenzy’s speed will keep him in the conversation for as long as he is on Notre Dame’s roster.

At some point, with muscle and bettered route-running, that speed should prove to be a difference maker. The Irish certainly hope that rings true not just one time (somewhat a la Chris Brown in 2012) and instead for at least one whole season (or two, a la Will Fuller).

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
Introduction
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Isaiah Foskey, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle
No. 40: Drew White, junior inside linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, junior kicker
No. 35: TaRiq Bracy, sophomore cornerback
No. 35: Marist Liufau, Hawaiian freshman linebacker
No. 34: Jahmir Smith, sophomore running back
No. 34: Osita Ekwonu, inside linebacker, consensus four-star
No. 33: Shayne Simon, sophomore linebacker
No. 31: Jack Lamb, sophomore linebacker
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, junior linebacker
No. 29: Ovie Oghoufo, sophomore linebacker-turned-defensive end
No. 27: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker