Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver

Jay Brunelle
Notre Dame Athletics

Listed measurements: 6-foot-1 ⅛, 199 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Brunelle did not play in 2020, meaning he has four seasons of eligibility remaining with or without the universal pandemic eligibility waiver.
Depth Chart: Consider Brunelle an unknown. He may back up senior Braden Lenzy as the field receiver, his speed fitting into the playbook just as Lenzy’s does. He may be bumped down by seniors Joe Wilkins or Lawrence Keys, a logical possibility intended to get a more experienced player into the action.
Recruiting: The consensus three-star recruit chose Notre Dame over Michigan and UCLA, announcing that decision just a week after visiting Ann Arbor.

CAREER TO DATE
Brunelle suffered a shoulder injury late in his final high school season that required surgery upon his early enrollment in South Bend. With or without a pandemic, Brunelle would have thus missed 2020’s spring practices.

This spring he suffered a slight hamstring issue, as well, keeping him out of the Blue-Gold Game.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Sunday’s entry on No. 82 Xavier Watts posited the thought that if practice clips cannot directly yield profits for players — a gray area as name, image and likeness legislation is fine-tuned and eventually understood — the right clips will still drive ample traffic to the players’ social media accounts, strengthening those revenue sources moving forward.

If granting that premise, then there was a clear growth opportunity for Brunelle after a mid-April practice.

QUOTE
The combination of injuries and the pandemic, not to mention the four seniors more likely to lead the Irish receivers this season, have kept Brunelle out of most conversations to date.

But when Notre Dame special teams coordinator Brian Polian pondered who might chip in on return or coverage units this fall, he thought of the sophomore.

“Can Jay Brunelle find a way to get on the field to help us?” Polian mused last month.

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN BRUNELLE SIGNED
“There is something to be said for players who perform so well at an Irish summer camp that they essentially demand a scholarship offer, a la sophomore [linebacker] Paul Moala a couple years ago. Brunelle similarly shined in June (2019), despite a lack of hype around his recruitment. Not only did he rise to the moment, flashing some previously unseen speed, he did it in a setting where Notre Dame’s coaches could gauge him with their own eyes, no film or second-hand report needed.

“Even with that compliment in mind, Brunelle will need to develop his route-running to set himself up for the impressive catches he made in high school. With the class of 2018 receivers finding their groove, such as Braden Lenzy, Lawrence Keys and Kevin Austin, Brunelle Will Likely work toward that progress on the scout team in 2020, including the spring as an early enrollee.”

2021 OUTLOOK
Brunelle’s shoulder injury may not have cost him spring practices a year ago, but all in all, the Irish coaching staff still has not seen much of the speedster on the field. While Notre Dame’s receivers are a pile of uncertainty, the complete unproven nature of Brunelle to date makes it unlikely he takes on a contributing role on the offense.

Instead, his speed and physicality could suit Brunelle well for the special teams work Polian alluded to. Proving oneself on special teams has led to greater things for Irish receivers in the past. Names such as Chris Finke and Chase Claypool come to mind.

DOWN THE ROAD
That chance will come soon enough. Notre Dame’s seniors, and fifth-year Avery Davis, are the most likely targets to spur the Irish offense this fall. And then, though all overflow with eligibility due to the pandemic waiver, at least two of those five will not return in 2021. More likely, at least three of the five will not return, simply due to the basic parameters of roster construction.

Brunelle’s speed makes him an intriguing thought for 2022 and 2023. But to date, he has done nothing but create intrigue.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver

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