New Notre Dame receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander said the team’s 2017 offense will be “user-friendly.”
With a first-year starting quarterback in junior Brandon Wimbush and a deep-but-young receiving corps, the pressure will be on the Irish to match the aerial production of recent seasons.
“These guys may be young, but once you cross the line then you’re experienced,” Alexander said of the receivers. “These guys have some experience.”
At Notre Dame’s National Signing Day press conference this month, Alexander touched on the team’s two incoming freshmen Jafar Armstrong and Michael Young. Though talented, neither is expected to provide an instant impact on a team well-stocked at receiver.
Counting the two freshmen, all 10 of Notre Dame’s receivers on the 2017 team have two or more years of eligibility remaining.
Five players have three years left — sophomores Chase Claypool, Javon McKinley and Kevin Stepherson and juniors Miles Boykin and Chris Finke — and three players have two years remaining — juniors C.J. Sanders and Equanimeous St. Brown and senior transfer Freddy Canteen.
Sanders, St. Brown and Stepherson are the leaders among that group, though players like Claypool, Boykin and McKinley have the physical skillsets to carve out a role this fall.
Alexander, who coached both receivers and tight ends during a six-year stint at Arizona State through 2016, worked with Jaelen Strong for two seasons with the Sun Devils. In his two seasons at ASU, Strong — a junior-college transfer — had two 1,000-yard seasons and became a third-round draft pick.
“These guys that are coming in and with these guys being as young as people might assume, we’ll be just fine,” Alexander said.
The Sun Devils’ passing attack featured different kinds of star receivers. Strong was a tall, physical pass catcher at 6-foot-2, 217 pounds. In 2015, they relied on the speedy Devin Lucien, a UCLA transfer who had 1,074 yards in his one season at Arizona State.
Finding a specific role for a receiver isn’t as important for the Irish as getting the best players the ball, Alexander said.
“I know in the past at some places you try to slot those guys, here’s a slot guy, here’s a guy over here,” Alexander said. “It’s all about performance and production. If a guy is playing really, really well, then you put him where the ball is going. That’s usually how it works.
“You watch Sunday football, and the best guys get a lot of touches. We’re not afraid to do that, but at the same time we feel like we’ve got a lot of weapons. We can line guys up at different spots or just one spot and be productive.”