As one 6-foot-4, sure-handed receiver leaves Notre Dame, another arrives. While the Irish receivers corps was not going to be shallow next season, it was going to be light on experience. The arrival of Northwestern graduate transfer Bennett Skowronek should help with that.
Skowronek suffered an ankle injury that cost him most of the 2019 season, but before that, he had established himself as one of the Wildcats’ best pass-catchers. In the two years prior, he totaled 90 catches for 1,206 yards and eight touchdowns. Some of those scores were more notable than others.
Ben Skowronek recorded 110 catches for 1,417 yards and eight touchdowns at Northwestern. Will immediately provide experience and leadership to the Irish WR unit.
He also had some ridiculous touchdown grabs. pic.twitter.com/ZFVgsx0yJy
— Matt Freeman (@mattfreemanISD) January 2, 2020
That ankle injury eventually required surgery, but it also preserved a season of eligibility, the one he will use at Notre Dame, not far from his home of Fort Wayne, Ind.
“As soon as I decided to enter the portal, schools start hitting you up immediately, so it was overwhelming,” Skowronek told Blue & Gold Illustrated. “But Notre Dame hit me up that day as well. From there we were both mutually interested in each other and it worked out once I got up there on a visit, I think two weekends later or something. It felt like home, and it felt like it was the place for me.”
With both Chase Claypool and Chris Finke out of eligibility and Javon McKinley perhaps headed elsewhere for his final year, no returning Irish receiver has appeared in a full season. The current sophomore class — led by Braden Lenzy, Lawrence Keys and Kevin Austin — has an abundance of talent, but none of it has shown consistently just yet.
Skowronek should help counter that, presuming his ankle has fully healed. In mid-December, a couple of weeks after Skowronek had entered the transfer portal and was already in conversation with the Notre Dame coaching staff, Irish head coach Brian Kelly specifically discussed how injury concerns could affect pursuing a graduate transfer.
“We would be very hesitant if we had injuries at a position that requires contact like that,” Kelly said. “If it was a shoulder at a wide receiver position, we would probably be less concerned.”
— Ben Skowronek (@BSkowronek10) January 2, 2020
In theory, Skowronek should fit well in Claypool’s place along the boundary, working against one-on-one coverage and using his size along the sideline. That had presumably been Austin’s role to inherit, but his speed could also be utilized along the wide side of the field.
Skowronek brings Notre Dame’s scholarship count for the fall to an expected 89.