Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 16 Deion Colzie, sophomore receiver

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 23 Notre Dame Spring Game
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-4 ¾, 207 pounds.
2022-23 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Colzie has three seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Either Colzie or classmate Jayden Thomas should start at boundary receiver in 2022. Colzie had the lead in that competition entering the offseason, but Thomas turned it into a tight race during the spring, partly due to Colzie suffering a concussion that cost him reps in the earlier practices.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star and the No. 19 receiver in the class, per rivals.com, Colzie committed to Notre Dame in October of 2019 before backing off that early in the pandemic to consider some of the impressive schools offering him a scholarship, including Alabama, his hometown Georgia and Oregon.

By the following September, still unable to visit South Bend due to the pandemic-induced recruiting dead period, Colzie chose the Irish over Tennessee.

CAREER TO DATE
Colzie played in 11 games as a freshman, catching four passes for 67 yards. Perhaps more notably, he took 166 snaps last season, a number boosted simply by Notre Dame’s dearth of receivers. Even if he was not reliably getting open or consistently targeted, the Irish needed Colzie to run routes because there were hardly any others to do so.

Oddly, though — and this is both a criticism of Colzie and a testament to Thomas — he took only three snaps in the Fiesta Bowl, when Notre Dame was down to four receivers, despite running 70 pass plays.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Colzie’s Instagram suggests he has a sponsorship deal with “It’s Just Wings,” an Atlanta-area restaurant specializing in, of course, chicken wings. That is the type of NIL usage everyone can get behind.

QUOTES
Colzie’s height, length and leaping ability — he cleared 6-foot-8 in the high jump in high school — differentiate him as a receiver, including how new receivers coach Chansi Stuckey works with him.

“The base foundation are the things that go with everybody,” Colzie said in April. “Stance and start, top of the route, catching the football, that’s the base of every receiver and they need to do it well.

“Coaching a guy like Deion, he’s a jump ball guy who has a big body. I put more emphasis on him trying to do that very well with the foundation of what we’re trying to do. Deion isn’t going to run option routes like [Lorenzo Styles] is.”

RELATED READING: What Chansi Stuckey looks for in Notre Dame’s wide receiver recruits
How Notre Dame is pushing WR Deion Colzie to meet his potential

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“Colzie runs a 10.82-second 100-meter dash. He leaps 6-foot-8 in the high jump. Colzie already enjoys a physical skill set that sets him apart from nearly all other receivers in the country, a skill set that will make him an ideal boundary receiver with body control when out-jumping opposing cornerbacks for deep routes and back-shoulder comebacks alike.

“But Notre Dame’s offense is notoriously difficult for freshman receivers to grasp enough to earn playing time. Wilkins, for example, has long been considered capable in all regards, but he had to wait two seasons to get a chance on offense.

“‘Definitely a difficult offense,’ Wilkins said after he broke through for a week last year. ‘We have a lot of plays, a lot of different formations, the same play out of different formations, it’s a lot to it. Coming at it as a freshman, you’re thrown this huge playbook and you have to know it. It’s rough, it’s definitely rough learning the plays.’

“If Colzie can prove to be the exception to that rule, he may already be physically ready to back up Austin, if not replace him should the senior once again fail to remain available be it by injury or otherwise.

“If not, the Irish are likely to play Colzie in only four games so as to preserve a year of eligibility for a player who may be enough of a future star as to render that long-term caution moot.”

2022 OUTLOOK
Track and field times and measurements do not directly translate to the football field, but the athleticism they demonstrate broadly does. Colzie not only jumped 6-foot-8 in high school, he also ran a 10.82-second 100-meter dash. Those are not numbers that typically go together.

Colzie has an athletic skill set that should make him a devastating boundary receiver, very much in the mold of Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool … in time.

It would be a surprise to see him rise to that level in 2022, but since Notre Dame has no one else in his mold, he should see plenty of opportunities this year. Styles stands 6-foot-1 ⅛, and neither fifth-year Braden Lenzy nor sixth-year Avery Davis cracks 6-foot. Thomas is a relatively big-bodied receiver, but he stands all of 6-foot-1 ½.

Unless incoming freshman Tobias Merriweather, 6-foot-4, immediately usurps Colzie, the sophomore should work the sidelines throughout the year. If he has developed a comfort catching the ball on his back shoulder, he could be a welcomed safety blanket for sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner.

Or, Colzie could struggle through the season, as he did in whatever way that led to his nearly-literal no-show in the Fiesta Bowl. That may be crippling for Notre Dame, simply given he is one of only seven scholarship receivers healthy to start the season, a number that includes former walk-on Matt Salerno.

DOWN THE ROAD
The best collegiate cornerbacks struggle with a dynamic 6-foot-4 receiver in one-on-one coverage. That is Colzie’s ceiling, and it is a thought that would open up the Irish offense for the next few years.

As long as he gradually trends toward that ceiling, Colzie will be given chances at Notre Dame. That leaping-speed combination is too rare to not ease along.

Furthermore, while the Irish receivers corps will gradually grow in numbers, that will take years. The trio of currently-committed receivers will help the cause, but even if that grows to a group of four by December, Notre Dame will have only eight or nine receivers next season, barring transfers. Half of those will be freshmen.

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The Irish desperately need Colzie to become a threat along the sideline, one Buchner can turn to for 12 yards on third-and-longs, one that eats up snaps because there is no one else available, one that shows long-term potential even amid this short-term crisis.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end

No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 85 Holden Staes, incoming freshman tight end
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77 Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man
No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’
No. 65 Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer
No. 59 Aamil Wagner, consensus four-star incoming freshman offensive tackle
No. 58 Ashton Craig, incoming freshman center
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery
No. 56 Joey Tanona, early-enrolled offensive guard coming off a concussion
No. 56 Howard Cross, senior defensive tackle with heavy hands, and that’s a good thing
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year offensive lineman, three-year starting center, captain
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, senior defensive tackle, now lighter and a starter
No. 54 Blake Fisher, sophomore starting right tackle, ‘ginormous’
No. 52 Zeke Correll, senior center or perhaps left guard
No. 52 Bo Bauer, fifth-year linebacker, Ironman
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, sophomore offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, sophomore end-turned-linebacker
No. 47 Jason Oyne, sophomore defensive end-turned-tackle
No. 44 Junior Tuihalamaka, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, consensus four-star recruit
No. 44 Alex Peitsch, junior long snapper
No. 42 Nolan Ziegler, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Irish legacy
No. 41 Donovan Hinish, incoming freshman defensive tackle, Kurt’s brother
No. 40 Joshua Burnham, early-enrolled freshman linebacker-turned-end
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, senior Vyper end coming off an Achilles injury
No. 31 NaNa Osafo-Mensah, senior defensive end
No. 29 Matt Salerno, fifth-year receiver, punt returner, former walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, fifth-year starting nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, senior linebacker recovering from a plaguing wrist injury
No. 25 Philip Riley, sophomore cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, junior running back, possible Irish bellcow
No. 24 Jack Kiser, senior linebacker, second-year starter
No. 23 Jayden Bellamy, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 22 Justin Walters, sophomore safety
No. 22 Logan Diggs, sophomore running back with a shoulder injury
No. 21 Jaden Mickey, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 20 Jadarian Price, early-enrolled freshman running back with a ruptured Achilles
No. 20 Benjamin Morrison, freshman cornerback
No. 18 Chance Tucker, sophomore cornerback
No. 18 Steve Angeli, freshman QB, Blue-Gold Game star
No. 17 Jaylen Sneed, early-enrolled linebacker, Rover of the future
No. 16 Brandon Joseph, Northwestern transfer, preseason All-American, starting safety
No. 9 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL