Is Braden Lenzy Ready To Become The Next Great Notre Dame Wideout?
Losing talented and productive wide receivers is something Notre Dame is used to over the last decade. It is one position where the Irish have been able to consistently generate productive players year after year no matter how good the losses at the position happened to be.
Notre Dame is once again faced with replacing productive and talented wideouts. The returning group of receivers must replace Chase Claypool, a 1,000-yard receiver that was a second round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
One player that is key to Notre Dame once again fielding an outstanding group of receivers is rising junior Braden Lenzy.
Lenzy came to Notre Dame with a great deal of hype and high expectations, and when you watched his high school film it made sense. Lenzy was a legit home run threat every time he is on the field, and he was a standout on both sides of the ball.
After taking a redshirt as a freshman in 2018, Lenzy saw very little action early in the 2019 season. He hauled in two passes for 74 yards in mop up duty against New Mexico, and then we saw very little of him over the next three games.
His absence from the lineup was puzzling, especially considering how much his game-breaking speed was needed to complement the power and playmaking of Claypool and tight end Cole Kmet.
Then this happened:
This 51-yard touchdown run was a key to Notre Dame’s victory over USC.
Despite that big play, Lenzy was still not used as an integral part of the offense for much of the season. He played 36 snaps against Michigan, but then played a combined 27 snaps in the victories over Virginia Tech and Navy.
But when he played, he was extremely dynamic and productive.
Now going into his third season, Lenzy is in position to become not just a key part of the rotation, but an integral part of the offense. How much growth we see from Lenzy will have a big say in just how good Notre Dame can be on offense this season.
HOME RUN SPEED MUST BE UTILIZED
One of my complaints with Notre Dame’s offense over the last decade, and especially in recent seasons, was the complexity that kept far too many talented young players on the sideline because they didn’t have the full grasp of the offense.
First-year offensive coordinator Tommy Rees needs to simplify things, and if he does that it will benefit Lenzy. Rees needs to look at what Lenzy does well and he needs to make sure that he is incorporating those skills into the game plan week after week.
Lenzy showed he can hit a home run in different ways. You saw it with a jet sweep in the touchdown above, he caught a screen pass and turned it into a 22-yard touchdown against New Mexico, and of course he can stretch the field.
Lenzy would've had another huge play, and possibly another long touchdown, on a drag route against Virginia Tech had the ball not been poorly thrown.
Rees will need to find ways to use Lenzy to stretch the field vertically on go routes and post routes, to work horizontally on routes like crosses and drag routes and to do damage on screens and jet sweeps.
There needs to be some diversity to how Lenzy’s speed is utilized week after week.
REFINEMENT IS NEEDED
One of my criticisms of Lenzy’s game when he was a junior in high school was that his route technique needed a lot of work. Lenzy put in the work and as a senior showed a great deal of improvement as a route runner.
He needs to make a similar jump going into the 2020 season and improve in two key areas.
Lenzy must first improve his ability to win at the line of scrimmage or when corners try to re-route him once he releases. He must get stronger, improve his hand play and enhance his ability to use more moves to avoid getting jammed. If Lenzy wins at the line there are very few corners that can run with him.
The Oregon native must also improve his route technique, especially in the quick game. If Lenzy can be sharper as a route runner it will make him incredibly dangerous and hard to defend. The reason is any time Lenzy can get any kind of separation he’s a threat to score.
Enhancing his route running would make Lenzy a more diverse and effective player, and it would allow him to develop into an every down threat and not just a big-play threat. This is what separates a player like Will Fuller (an every down threat) and Mecole Hardman. Both are great to have, but one is certainly more impactful than the other on a snap-to-snap basis.
Lenzy has had a hard time staying on the field at Notre Dame. If he’s going to become a regular part of the offense and not just be an occasional big play threat like he was last season staying healthy will be the key.
I fully expect Lenzy to have put in the work to build on his game, and if he can do that and stay healthy he’ll have every opportunity to develop into the kind of player that completely changes the look of the Irish offense.
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