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Notre Dame Wide Receiver Depth Chart Underwent A Big Change This Week

Injuries, returns from the injured and position changes have changed the look of the Notre Dame wide receiver room
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Notre Dame’s wide receiver group is in a precarious position. The unit was already thin, and last week’s season-ending knee injury to sixth-year team leader Avery Davis did nothing to help that.

The Fighting Irish receivers had both influx and reduction at Wednesday’s practice. Junior Xavier Watts, who moved from receiver to safety last year, switched his jersey from white (defense) No. 4 to blue No. 26 and worked with the wideouts for the second time (he switched over on Monday).

Fifth-year senior Joe Wilkins Jr. also took reps for the first time with the media present. He has been slowly working his way back from a broken foot in the spring. While those two new faces went through position drills, sophomore Jayden Thomas rode a stationary bike and worked with a trainer during warmups and the first five periods of practice when the media was present.

Receivers coach Chansi Stuckey still has a lot to work with in his group though. Getting Wilkins back this early, assuming the veteran keeps improving and stays healthy, was a huge boost.

“I was always optimistic, because I had the same injury,” Stuckey said of Wilkins returning. “I was super optimistic about it, but when you find out about injuries you find out a lot about a guy (and) how fast they come back is right here (points to head). It’s all right here, in your mind.”

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Stuckey joked about how Wilkins’ demeanor changed in the receivers meeting room prior to him coming back to practice with the group.

“It was really funny,” Stuckey recalled. “So, he’s about to come back into practice, so yesterday he starts talking in the meeting. I was like ‘Alright, he’s about to come to practice’.”

Before Wilkins got into position drills with the rest of the receivers, he was still with the group in meetings and film sessions. He couldn’t go live at practice, but Stuckey was trying to keep the grad student’s mind sharp.

“I’ve been really harping on him about getting mental reps,” said Stuckey. “Staying locked in, getting mental reps, understand what’s going on. He gets in on the walkthrough and you can see he’s still locked in.

“He's in the meetings (and) I’m asking him questions so that when he sees it, he’s a guy that’s been in the system for a while, so it’s not gonna be a huge adjustment, but still the speed of the game (and) the physicality," continued Stuckey. ".... mentally trusting his foot again are gonna be some huge things that I have to feel great and Tommy (Rees) have to feel great about putting him on the field and trusting him.”

The return of Wilkins from the injury list and the return of Watts from safety actually puts Notre Dame in a better numbers situation than it was a week ago at this time, but there are certainly questions remaining. One thing is for sure, the Irish depth chart at wide receiver can't afford another injury.