Film Room: Breaking Down The Game Of Lorenzo Styles Jr.
Notre Dame recruited the wide receiver position quite well for the last decade, but recent recruiting has added a major boost in talent and speed to the position.
The 2018 and 2020 classes were especially talented and deep. Notre Dame will look to bring in a group of pass catchers in 2021 that is just as good, if not better, than the last two outstanding classes.
Notre Dame and wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander got off to a hot start, landing a pair of Top 100 recruits in October when Pickerington (Ohio) Central star Lorenzo Styles Jr. and Athens (Ga.) Academy standout Deion Colzie committed in the same weekend.
It is an outstanding pair of pass catchers. Over the next two days I will break down what makes both such important picks for Notre Dame, beginning with Styles
Lorenzo Styles, 6-1, 170, Pickerington (Ohio) Central
Rivals: No. 34
247Sports: No. 120
ESPN: No. 224
IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 100 national player)
Upside Grade: 4.5
Overview: Landing Styles was a big pickup for Notre Dame in a number of ways. He’s a talented prospect, he’s versatile and beating out Ohio State for a Buckeye state player who is also an OSU legacy is certainly an important victory.
The talented two-way standout is a Top 100 caliber prospect that earned offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Florida, Auburn, Penn State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, Louisville, Boston College, Duke, Mississippi State, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland, West Virginia and Vanderbilt.
Styles is being recruited by Notre Dame to play wide receiver, but a case could be made that he’s just as good of a cornerback prospect as he is a wide receiver prospect.
Size - Frame - Athleticism
Styles isn’t the biggest player, possessing above-average length with a skinny and wirey frame. He’ll always be on the thin side, but Styles is a tough athlete that is more than willing to mix it up. The Pickerington Central star will throw his body into bigger players, but he’ll obviously need to keep adding more strength, especially to his upper body.
This is something I love about Styles as a prospect. He’s on the skinny side, he doesn’t have great natural power and he needs to get a lot stronger, but that doesn’t keep him from playing a tough game on both sides of the ball. You’ll see him fight hard to get through arm tackles on offense and he’ll come up and drive through tackle attempts. Once his weight room strength improves he'll be even more effective after the catch.
What makes Styles a top prospect is his explosiveness. When his technique is right he shows an excellent burst, but his acceleration is what makes him so dynamic as a prep player. Styles has legit 4.4-caliber speed, and there’s another level of speed for him to get to. As Styles fills out his frame and adds more weight room strength you’ll see him develop another level of explosiveness.
At the prep level his speed plays quite well, with Styles possessing the ability to get over top of the defense and to turn the smallest window into a home run. His acceleration is especially good, and that makes him a threat every time the ball is snapped.
This is the kind of element Notre Dame wants more of in its offense. This is a simple throw and catch situation that is designed to be nothing more than a chain-moving route concept, but Styles turns up field, sees a crease and explodes through it for a long touchdown.
Having great concepts and schemes is certainly helpful for an offense, but the best offenses are those that have athletes that can turn short throws into big plays. When Notre Dame’s offense has been its best the last five seasons it’s when it has explosive athletes that can hit home runs. We saw that in 2015 (Will Fuller, CJ Prosise, Josh Adams), 2017 (Adams, Brandon Wimbush, Kevin Stepherson) and at times in 2019 (Braden Lenzy).
Styles has that ability as a pass catcher and with the ball in his hands. Here’s an another example of the acceleration that makes Styles a top prospect.
This particular run came against Winter Park (Fla.), and the safety he outruns to the outside (#8) is Marcus Clarke, a Miami (Fla.) signee in the 2020 class. Winter Park sent four players, including three defenders, to FBS schools as part of the 2020 class.
Styles isn’t an overly elusive player. He can make defenders miss, but he’s not a guy that is going to juke and shake his way to big plays. The Pickerington Central athlete is more of a wideout that uses his speed to make defenders miss. He is a weapon after the catch, but it’s more about his speed and suddenness, and not his make-you-miss skills. Having said that, he has the foot quickness and hip fluidity for this to eventually become a bigger part of his game once he settles into one position.
What makes Styles such an important pickup in my view is that he’s not even close to reaching his full potential as a player. Styles is a top-level athlete already, but he has a young body that will really start to take off once he gets to college, which is why I believe he has another gear and more burst that he has yet to tap into.
Route Running - Ball Skills
Styles is a two-way player that thrives on offense and defense as a prep player. On offense, Styles lined up all over the field, playing outside and in the slot. The talented junior also lined up at running back and would motion into the backfield to get handoffs.
The fact he can do so much is something that adds to his value as a prospect, but it also takes away from his ability to refine his technique at any position. That means Styles gets by on being a smart and instinctive player with excellent athleticism, but it also means his game needs work.
The first area where I’d love to see Styles improve is with his pre-snap stance. His best traits are explosiveness and speed, so Styles needs to do everything possible to maximize those skills. His presnap stance is too balanced, and at the snap he has to first reset his weight before he can take off. There are times when he gets off the line well, but too often he has a significant false step that immediately puts him a step behind.
This is something most receivers do, but what the best speed receivers do is once they reset they drive off that lead foot. Styles doesn’t do that, which means his first few steps are used to build up speed.
You can see that here:
I’d like to see him get a bit more of a forward lean with his stance, but that’s not something a lot of receiver coaches teach anymore. That is fine, but if he’s going to have a false step he needs to make sure he’s driving off that lead foot, which helps recover quicker from the false step.
Styles needs to work on his top-end route technique, but he has the speed, foot quickness and overall athleticism to eventually develop into a dynamic route runner. All the tools are there, he just needs to continue working on that part of his game, which will take off in college once he stops playing both ways.
His intelligence and feel for the game shows when he’s working against zone defenses. The young wideout shows a knack for finding soft spots in the zone and getting open. Those instincts also help him on defense. He does a great job reading routes and then using his speed to quickly drive on the ball. His anticipation as a defender is outstanding.
I like how Styles catches the football. He doesn’t have great size, but his arm length is good and he attack the football when there is a defender around him. Even when he’s open or making short catches he meets the ball away from his body. His hands are strong and he’s a confident pass catcher.
Notre Dame Fit
Styles projects to play either the outside field position (X) or the slot (Z), and his game could thrive at either spot. His speed works at both positions, allowing him to stretch the field on the outside and to use his speed to attack up the seams and across the field from the slot. He should thrive in Notre Dame’s quick game and screen concepts, and like we saw from Lenzy this season he can take a jet sweep and turn it into a big play.
If you like comparisons, Styles’ game reminds me a great deal of former Irish wideout Kevin Stepherson. Their bodies are similar, both were explosive and both use speed as their primary weapon. Like Stepherson, Styles tracks the deep ball well and he’s stronger than Stepherson was at the prep level.
The comp to Stepherson is only about what they do on the field, as Styles is a much better character and academic fit.
Styles is open to playing on either side of the ball, which adds to his value. If Notre Dame loads up at wide receiver or comes up short at cornerback the Pickerington Central star could easily slide over to defense and provide starter caliber talent. Ideally the Irish are able to have success recruiting cornerbacks, which would allow Styles to stay on offense, but having that versatility makes him incredibly valuable.
Route Running: 81
Ball Skills: 85
After The Catch: 85
90-100 – Elite
80-89 – Very Good to Outstanding
70-79 – Solid to Above Average
60-69 – Below Average to Average
50-59 – Poor
OVERALL/UPSIDE GRADE KEY
5.0 – Elite (Top 25 Caliber Player)
4.5 – Outstanding (Top 50 Caliber Player)
4.0 – Very Good (Top 250 Caliber Player)
3.5 – Above Average (Top 350 Caliber Player)
3.0 – Solid (Top 500 Caliber Player or Lower)