Notre Dame looks for playmaking receivers from young group
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) The quarterback competition between DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire is complicating the battle for starting spots among an inexperienced Notre Dame receiving corps.
''There are a lot of moving parts, so it's really just a work in progress where we think when it's time to play we'll have a pretty good group on the field. It's going to take some time for it all to jell together,'' Kelly said after practice Thursday. ''It's not going to be in Game 1. This offense will be productive and will get better as the season progresses.''
Torii Hunter Jr., expected to be the go-to receiver, has one career start and 35 career catches. That's one more start and 34 more catches than any other wide receiver on the Irish roster.
Kelly, though, believes the Irish have the talent to replace Will Fuller and Chris Brown, now in the NFL, Corey Robinson, who ended his career early because of concussions, and Alize Jones, a tight end who was expected to play some at receiver until he was ruled academically ineligible.
Kelly said he likely will have to move Hunter around at different receiver positions to try to make it tougher for opponents to double team him. Hunter said he's ready to accept the role.
''I don't want to call myself that No. 1 receiver. I just want to go out there and make plays,'' Hunter said.
The only other wide receivers with a catch are Equanimeous St. Brown, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound sophomore who missed the final four games with a shoulder injury, and C.J. Sanders, who has shown glimpses of his play-making abilities on special teams, including returning a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns last year.
Kelly said the thing he stressed to St. Brown is he needs to be more consistent with route running.
''As I told him, the quarterback will adjust to you if you're consistent. But if you're routes are ever-changing and we don't know where you're going to be, that's going to be a problem,'' he said. ''I think we can safely say he has the talent necessary to perform at that level.''
Kelly said Sanders has shown glimpses of what he can do on special teams ''now it's going to have to show itself as an inside receiver.''
Other potential contributors are junior Corey Holmes, the fastest player on the team with a 4.39 time in the 40-yard dash, sophomore Miles Bokin, and freshmen Kevin Stepherson, Chase Claypool, Deon McIntosh and Javon McKinley.
Hunter said the young receivers know they have a chance to get on the field early.
''I think they understand there are opportunities out there and they need to go take advantage of it. I tried to make it clear all summer,'' Hunter said.