With top wide receiver target Rodney Gallagher off the board and headed to West Virginia, the Notre Dame staff needs to bounce back and get recruit at the position back on track.
While the Notre Dame staff worked hard to get Gallagher in the class, the reality is he was a massive miss for the Irish. The young man is a special player in space, forecasting as the dynamic slot receiver that the Notre Dame offense has been searching for.
That element is something that the staff may have to end up manufacturing more with the players who are left on the board.
But losing out on Gallagher doesn't mean that Chansi Stuckey and the Irish staff can't land a much-needed gap closing group. That is still very much on the table.
YOU HAVE TO CLOSE
Notre Dame is in very good position with two top targets on the board, and are making a hard charge for a third. Landing all three is vital to success for Notre Dame, who does have a Top 100 recruit in Braylon James already in the fold.
Ever since James committed a case could be made that the top target left on the board is Austin (Texas) Westlake wide receiver Jaden Greathouse. The 6-2 210-pound pass catcher is arguably the most college-ready wide receiver in the entire cycle, and I'm not just talking about Notre Dame targets.
He brings an outstanding blend of route running chops, physicality, competitiveness and hand strength. Playing mostly outside of the numbers for Westlake, Greathouse may also be an intriguing option in the slot for Notre Dame, if they are able to land him. He’s a very different player stylistically than Gallagher, but his intelligence, route running and consistency can bring an interesting fit inside.
Greathouse was always a must-get, but it's even more important to land him now.
What's interesting is that the "lowest ranked" wide receiver on the board is also the one with the most impressive offer list, and it's not really close. That, of course, would be Cambridge (Mass.) Buckingham Browne and Nichols athlete Ronan Hanafin.
Hanafin has long been treated as a throw-in by some, but he is an extremely important cog for this wide receiver board. Just look at the schools pushing hard for him: Notre Dame, Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State and others. Hanafin is a legit big-time talent.
The 6-3, 205-pounder is a long and athletic pass catcher who combines a big frame with notable straight-line speed. He brings some flexibility to potentially develop into a substantial fixture on the defensive side of the football but he brings some impressive tools to work in the boundary. This isn’t just a throw-in. This is a very important piece to this 2023 class, and Notre Dame needs to close.
Things seem to be trending in a great direction recently with Folsom (Calif.) High School pass-catcher Rico Flores Jr., who is one of the more productive wide receivers in the class. Set to decide between Notre Dame, Ohio State and Georgia on July 3rd, Flores is also set to visit South Bend next month for the first time.
The 6-2, 190-pound wideout is an incredibly smooth athlete who brings a high level of consistency to the passing game. Flores is a really nice player but there are questions about just how much of a gap he closes. Regardless, Notre Dame wants him in this class.
After the trio of Greathouse, Hanafin and Flores, there are a couple of wildcards on the board that is worth keeping an eye on. Arguably the top player on the board regardless of designation is Lakeland (Fla.) High School star Tyler Williams, who hasn’t been playing football too long but has a silly amount of upside.
A long-limbed pass catcher at 6-3 and 185 pounds, Williams brings a combination of length and explosiveness that could give him an argument as the most physically gifted wide receiver in the 2023 class. It’s hard to believe that Notre Dame is a legitimate player for Williams, especially considering that he has never visited campus yet and doesn't seem to be in a hurry to do so. Still, there are people who believe that there is real interest from Williams’ side. The next few months will be a huge indicator of whether that is true or not.
Lee’s Summit (Mo.) High School standout Joshua Manning is a player who hasn’t been on the board very long for the Irish, having just been offered back on May 4. Since the offer came, Stuckey and staff have made it a priority to get into a solid position with the 6-3, 190-pound pass catcher. Manning is an explosive athlete who has a propensity for making huge plays. He shouldn’t be viewed as a consolation prize in this class for Notre Dame. That is seriously underselling just how talented he is.
This wide receiver group may not end up looking like everyone’s dream class but it still has an opportunity to close the gap. The wide receiver recruiting will be defined by how they finish from this point moving forward.
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