Welcome back to Part 2 of this series.
*Rankings are from 1 (poor) to 10 (great).
2014 Wideouts & Tight Ends (Prediction from 5-9-14)
Here's a snippet from last year's piece:
Can Daniels have a 1,000 yard season similar to Jones last year? I think that's certainly possible if he gets his head right and can stay healthy.
Is Koyack capable of catching 30 passes? I don't think I would bet against that happening for him in the fall.
If this is all we have to replace, and the players looking to fill those roles are ready and talented, shouldn't we be better overall if there's more depth below them? Tight end clearly has major issues with depth but more so with experienced depth since there's no one behind Koyack who has taken a single snap in their career. That's pretty scary for a program that is used to playing 2 or 3 tight ends with regularity.
Obviously, Daniels never took a snap for the Irish in 2014 but Will Fuller stepped up and hit the 1,000-yard mark. And as fate would have it Koyack settled for exactly 30 catches.
The expectations were pretty high for these units last year and I suspect most would agree they met them. Koyack did what most thought he would, Luatua gave the team some good blocking as a true freshman, and Durham Smythe got some experience. At wideout, 4 different players totaled at least 500 yards, while Fuller was 3rd nationally in touchdowns.
2015 Wideouts & Tight Ends
We see a little bump in all but one category as every receiver is coming back which is enough to overcome the loss of a 4-year player in tight end Ben Koyack. The only category that is not increased is productivity due to the quarterback position and the uncertainty around the passing game.
While I'm not going all in on believing there will be a complete overhaul to the power spread and a huge turn toward the running game it would certainly be one heck of an effort if Zaire or any other quarterback on the roster put together over 3,700 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. That kind of production through the air has happened only twice over the last 8 seasons in South Bend.
Putting that aside, the depth at these positions is kind of absurd. We're talking about 18 players if there's enough room for Chase Hounshell to stay for a 5th season. Specifically at receiver there's Fuller, Prosise, Brown, and Robinson as the main targets and then players such as Carlisle, Hunter, Holmes, and Brent still looking for some quality playing time. Oh yeah, then there are 4 more freshmen arriving this summer too.
So for me, the most intriguing issues for next year involve the break down for all this depth, who takes the next step at receiver, and if there's any change to the business-as-usual tight end production that's been a part of Notre Dame for over a decade.
Tight end is a larger focus because there are so many known quantities at receiver, there's still a lot of mystery surrounding the perceived No. 1 tight end Durham Smythe, and incoming No. 1 freshman Aliz'e Jones adds a further layer of intrigue.
Even with a bit of a scheme change the receivers are going to be doing many of the same things (although the reps may be decreased) but there could be more of an impact at tight end. That is to say, how many detached tight ends do you see in a power spread? For that matter, who are some of the best tight ends in a power spread system?
If this scheme change comes to fruition that's good news for Tyler Luatua as the blocking H-back but reps in the passing game are going to be very hard to come by for the likes of Smythe and Jones. Ultimately, you can see why I think the staff isn't going to go head first into a full power spread as Kelly has always tailored things to his players skill-sets. While the Zaire/Folston/Bryant has its own allure there is an awful lot of talent and bodies at wideout and tight end that need to be fed too.