Michael Mayer was Notre Dame football’s top receiving threat for a couple of years and he masked the problems that the Irish had at quarterback over the past two seasons.
But now, Mayer is headed to the NFL and Notre Dame brought in Sam Hartman to lead the offense.
With an improved quarterback and no elite tight end to rely on, that means receivers are going to have to step up as top targets to help Hartman out. He can make any offense look competent and he excelled at Wake Forest with one really good receiver and a bunch of role players.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, has elite options on the roster.
But who will step up as that WR1 for the Irish next season?
Notre Dame football has options for WR1
A fair guess for the next WR1 at Notre Dame would be Virginia Tech transfer Kaleb Smith who was one of the best receivers in the portal and who is coming off a season in which he had 37 catches for 674 yards and three touchdowns.
I would be willing to bet that Smith is the top option prior to the season and that’s why Marcus Freeman brought him in.
But he’s not the only WR1 option.
Actually, there are some younger guys with higher ceilings such as Deion Colzie, a former four-star, and Lorenzo Styles, another former four-star. Jayden Thomas, too, is a legit possibility. Colzie had just nine catches for 192 yards and a touchdown last season, but his size and athleticism are intriguing. Syles was third on the team with 340 yards and a touchdown on 30 receptions. And Thomas was second with 361 yards and three touchdowns on 25 catches.
I also like what second-year receiver Tobias Merriweather brings to the table and I think, at worst, he needs to be on that two-deep with his size and catch radius. He could be a legitimate star in an Irish uniform.
I’m not sold on the two four-star early enrollee receivers — Braylon James and Jaden Greathouse — being ready, but they could get some run.
If I’m going to make a prediction, I’ll say that the WR1 next season is Smith to start, but Colzie and Styles battle it out for that top spot as well. Merriweather will be the surprise breakout star.