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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 18 Joe Wilkins, sophomore receiver

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-1 ½, 190 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Wilkins has four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019, after appearing in only two games last year.
Depth chart: Wilkins will spend the preseason working to crack the second unit, be it at field receiver behind junior Michael Young or at boundary behind senior Chase Claypool. In either spot, or even at the slot, Wilkins will be competing with classmates.
Recruiting: Pursued as a cornerback, the consensus three-star prospect chose Notre Dame over offers from Louisville, Washington State and Michigan State, among others, in a wide-spread recruitment.

CAREER TO DATE
Wilkins took snaps in two games last season, not catching a pass or even garnering a target, after making the move to receiver in preseason practices.

He pulled in one pass for 27 yards in this spring’s Blue-Gold Game, turning an in-route back to the sideline for a gain to the 3-yard-line.

QUOTE(S)
A knee cartilage injury slowed Wilkins in the beginning of spring practices. Once back on the field, Wilkins began testing Young for the honors as the third starting receiver.

“Joe Wilkins had a really good day coming off his cartilage,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in mid-March. “He’s a guy that will get a ton of work over the next few days.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
Admittedly, the following was written about Wilkins’ future at cornerback, but it reads quite applicably to the beginning of his tenure at receiver, as well.

“That means a freshman or two will work with the defense all season long, not paying any heed to the scout team. That could be Wilkins. Of the quartet in the class, Wilkins may have the most college-ready body, his length perhaps compensating for some inexperience and time not yet spent in a collegiate strength and conditioning program.

“That would position Wilkins for early mop-up duties and late-season situational work. He does already have a grasp on route-running from both sides of the equation.

“If absolutely nothing else, Wilkins projects as an immediate special teams contributor on coverage units.”

2019 OUTLOOK
At least two sophomore receivers will be needed in the two-deep, a number that rises to three depending on one’s pessimism related to senior Javon McKinley. If Wilkins can beat out Braden Lenzy, he should be right behind Young. Some receiver depth will be vital this year, simply to avoid running the starters into the ground as was the case by November last season.

Wilkins has shown the raw skills wanted at the position in practice reps: a comfort receiving passes, good speed, ranginess. Amid a grouping of receivers with specifically-excellent skills (Lenzy, speed; Lawrence Keys, shiftiness; Kevin Austin, downfield size), Wilkins may be the most well-rounded, albeit with each of those skills in only good supply, not great.

In the spring, Wilkins also took some turns as the punt returner. Until seen otherwise, that would seem to be fifth-year receiver Chris Finke’s domain, but Wilkins could emerge there with a strong preseason.

DOWN THE ROAD
Notre Dame will need two new starting receivers come 2020. How Wilkins fares in this preseason’s position competition will be predictive of if he can move into such a prominent role next year. If that sounds simple, that’s because it is. The under-the-radar challenges for backup positions in one preseason can lay the groundwork for starting gigs the following fall.

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
No. 25: Braden Lenzy, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 24: Tommy Tremble, sophomore tight end
No. 24: Jack Kiser, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Mr. Indiana Football
No. 23: Litchfield Ajavon, four-star safety, freshman
No. 23: Kyren Williams, early-enrolled freshman running back
No. 22: Kendall Abdur-Rahman, quarterback-turned-receiver, freshman
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, the only returning starting linebacker
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, three-year starting safety
No. 20: Shaun Crawford, defensive back returning from yet another injury
No. 20: C’Bo Flemister, sophomore running back
No. 19: Jay Bramblett, freshman punter
No. 19: Justin Ademilola, sophomore defensive end