Irish Breakdown spent a lot of time this offseason talking about how a jump at wide receiver was needed, and how the unit was capable of being very good if the offense was opened up. Well, for at least one game the offense was opened up and the wide receivers performed quite well.
Notre Dame's pass catchers made plays in the pass game and blocked well in the game, and their overall performance could have resulted in even better production had the line given quarterback Jack Coan more time to throw the football.
There are things that need to be cleaned up and I was disappointed that position coach Del Alexander decided to go with a short bench, which is something to keep an eye on moving forward. But the players that were on the field performed well in the game, and when Coan got the ball out to them they made a lot of plays.
Overall Grade: B+
Let's look at the individual player grades and analysis.
Stats: 4 catches, 91 yards, 22.8 YPC, 1 TD
Austin had an outstanding start to the 2021 season. You saw glimpses in this game of the player that Irish coaches, players and media have seen in practice. If Austin can build on this game he will be a big-time breakout player for Notre Dame.
The senior wideout showed good speed off the line and was able to get separation throughout the game on both deep routes and intermediate routes. He had a step on a defensive back early in the game on a flea flicker but the ball was underthrow. Austin was able to get on top of FSU cornerbacks on two deep routes to start the third quarter, including on his 37-yard touchdown where he was able to get the receiver on his back hip.
Austin showed the ability to make plays after the catch and there were at least 3-4 more opportunities for him to get the ball but the read didn't get to him. Austin was better than I expected on his intermediate breaking routes, but there is room for him to be sharper than what he showed Sunday night. Austin gave very good effort in the game as well, but he'll need to play with a bit better control in the run game and clean up his technique, but the effort was certainly there.
Stats: 2 catches, 39 yards, 19.5 YPC, 0 TD
If all you look at is production you likely weren't overly impressed with Lenzy's performance, but he had a very good game if you're able to look beyond the box score. Lenzy made a crucial early grab, diving for a ball near the sideline to pick up 15 yards, which turned a 2nd-and-17 into a 3rd-and-2. Notre Dame was able to get into a 4th-and-1 situation, which set up the first touchdown pass.
Lenzy's other grab came on a drag route where he out-ran the defender across the field. Lenzy had his defender beat by two steps on the deep ball incompletion in the second quarterback the ball was underthrown. I want to see Lenzy compete for that ball a bit better but that incompletion was on Coan.
Lenzy also got free on another deep ball that would have gone for a touchdown if Coan had time to throw and was able to make an accurate throw. That's why I say Lenzy's actual play was much better than his numbers.
Stats: No catches
Davis had a rough start to the season. His blocking was inconsistent and he didn't look comfortable as a route runner on short to intermediate throws. There were a few snaps where he was able to get open but no targets came, but I didn't see Davis as crisp and decisive running routes as we've seen in the past. He can be better and needs to be better.
JOE WILKINS JR.
Stats: 1 catch, 23 yards, 23.0 YPC, 1 TD
Wilkins made a great catch for a touchdown in the second quarter. The cornerback had him covered very well and the ball was underthrown, but Wilkins did a great job out-playing the corner for the football. His run blocking was solid but Wilkins had trouble getting separation throughout the game, even on his touchdown grab.
I was shocked Lawrence Keys III only played five snaps. He got open twice on those few snaps, and after dominating throughout the spring and in the spring game I have a hard time believing Keys isn't good enough and healthy enough to play more than five snaps. This is a mistake that Alexander has made for years and hopefully this is just a one-game issue. Freshman Lorenzo Styles Jr. only played one snap in the win.
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