football Edit

How Braden Lenzy Has Emerged As A Key Figure In Notre Dame’s Offense

The teammate, coach and observer reviews of senior wide receiver Braden Lenzy 11 days into training camp are unanimously positive.

Healthy. Consistent. Productive. Loose. The result of a “transformational” summer, in head coach Brian Kelly’s words.

These are not descriptions often associated with Lenzy in the past. Nor is an August jammed with jump-ball catches, playful back-and-forths with Kelly, first-team work and full health similar to his prior fall camps. There’s a decidedly different conversation and real optimism around a player often pegged as a speedy gadget weapon or a track star playing football.

Asked Thursday in a post-practice media session if he feels a night and day difference, though, Lenzy took a moment to set the record straight.

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“In my mind, I felt like since sophomore year, I’m a playmaker,” Lenzy said. “I feel like my strengths have been pretty strong through college, I just kept getting hurt. I wouldn’t say it’s night and day. I think I’ve been that dude for a while. It’s just becoming clearer now that I’m not hurt.”

Hamstring issues sideswiped Lenzy’s potential 2020 breakthrough. Though he played seven games and returned after both of his injury-related absences, he was a ghost of himself. He notched seven catches for 63 yards, with six of those receptions in a span of two early season games.

“I probably didn’t run full speed once I got hurt in fall camp until the Alabama game,” Lenzy said. “I wasn’t healthy all year.”

He and his three now-senior classmates — Joe Wilkins Jr., Lawrence Keys III, Kevin Austin Jr. — caught a combined 20 passes last year. Injuries are their common career thread. Yet Notre Dame’s staff saw that quartet (plus graduate student Avery Davis) as the backbone of its 2021 receiving corps and challenged them to reach that status.

“The message was, ‘You’re being doubted. Work your ass off and prove it,’” Lenzy recalled.

For Lenzy, that entailed staying healthy. He also sought to add to his playmaking arsenal. He can outrun defenders in the flat on screens or sweeps. Getting open because he could fly past a cornerback or safety wasn’t a problem either. But if he drew a defensive back who could keep pace? A quarterback was wise to look somewhere else.

Not anymore, Lenzy says.

“That’s something I really worked on, to eliminate just being a deep threat on a wide-open look but if someone’s next to me, it’s a look-off from the quarterback,” Lenzy said. “Even if someone is next to me, they trust me to still go get the ball.”

The Aug. 12 practice open to reporters offered some validation. On one go route, he slowed, came back to the ball and reached out over sophomore cornerback Clarence Lewis. The throw hit Lenzy’s hands, deflected off Lewis and back to Lenzy, who snatched it on the way down. He later beat Lewis again for another contested catch. He got up and spiked the ball.

There’s more evidence. In a practice video posted Monday to his Instagram page, Lenzy adjusts to the ball and pulls it down with Lewis draped on him.

The caption: “Movin Differently. Speakin Confidently.”


“I don’t feel a lot of people can run with me,” Lenzy said. “But on the off chance someone can, I feel like now there’s that part of my game where if there’s a deep shot called to me, I’m getting the ball either way.”

Notre Dame Fighting Irish football senior wide receiver Braden Lenzy
Lenzy has demonstrated new jump-ball and contested catch ability in fall camp. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Lenzy estimates he has hauled in about 10 jump-ball catches in fall camp after having zero in three years of games and practices. Offseason drill work emphasized them. He practiced catching the ball and moving it away from a defender. Positioning his body (“jumping back into the DB”) and timing jumps were focuses too.

He proved to be a fast learner.

“Once you do it once or twice, it’s like riding a bike,” Lenzy said. “You see the path of the ball a little better.”

Lenzy’s performance in summer workouts also played a part. He finished in the top 10 percent of point scorers among receivers and tight ends in strength coach Matt Balis’ offseason program.

“You saw just how much he owned what Coach Balis was preaching all summer,” offensive coordinator Tommy Rees said. “It set him up to have a great camp. He’s catching the ball at a high level. He’s running different routes than he has in the past.”

Wilkins, meanwhile, scored the most points of any receiver or tight end. Davis and Austin were within 30 points of Lenzy.

Challenge met.

The results have purportedly shown up on the practice field. They might not stop there.

“If you asked anyone after these first 11 or 12 practices, you’d be quite surprised if there are any questions at all about receivers,” Lenzy said. “I think that’ll be very clear from day one. There have been some great players before us.

“But in my opinion, this has been the best fall camp the receivers have had overall in my four years. That’s not throwing any shade. It’s just the honest truth.”



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