Now that there is a little bit of a gap between now and when Notre Dame WR Jordan Johnson declared for the transfer portal — it’s time to clear the air of all of the smoke from the sizzling hot takes from fans out there that are looking for answers by throwing grenades.
This isn’t a simple issue, but it shouldn’t be hard to understand. Roster management and recruiting require your thought process to be a little more nuanced than declaring absolutes that don’t exist.
So let’s get into the realities of what just happened and where the Notre Dame Fighting Irish stand.
Wide Receiver Recruiting
Outside of everything else, this is the main point to concentrate on — before and after Jordan Johnson’s transfer. The Irish go into the 2021 season with just two receivers in the sophomore and junior classes (Jay Brunelle and Xavier Watts). Both are sophomores (as was Johnson) — as the junior class is devoid of any pass catchers at receiver AND at tight end — and that’s where we run into the biggest problem... bodies.
The 2018 recruiting class has been widely criticized for its lack of production. In all, the class brought in 4 receivers in Kevin Austin, Braden Lenzy, Lawrence Keys, and Micah Jones, with a 5th in Joe Wilkins, who was quickly moved over to offense after coming in as an athlete. Every school has to play the scholarship game, but Notre Dame followed up that class with only one WR in 2019 in Cam Hart — who was quickly moved over to defense as a freshman. One “commit” — with a long WR offer list for 2019.
And that’s where the real problem starts. The Irish followed 2019’s non haul with Jay Brunelle, Xavier Watts, and Jordan Johnson for 2020. On paper it’s not a bad haul, but after 2019, they really could have used 4-5 receivers rather than just three.
And that’s where the problem stands out above all others. Del Alexander doesn’t want to sign more than three receivers in a class — and apparently that remains true even as the position remains thin. The Irish did well in the 2021 cycle with Deion Colzie, Lorenzo Styles, and Jayden Thomas, but certainly could have used a 4th.
The whole thing really comes down to health for the Irish. Can Kevin Austin remain healthy and make the impact we all expect? Can Braden Lenzy remain healthy after a cursed 2020? BTW... you can say the same for Lawrence Keys and Joe Wilkins. If Avery Davis continues to develop like he did in 2020, there’s a lot to work with him too.
All these people are crying over Jordan Johnson, and yet we saw Lorenzo Styles look good this spring — so there’s a young guy for you to fall in love with. The truth of the matter is that it was becoming clearer and clearer that Jordan Johnson wasn’t going to make a significant impact with the Irish in 2021 based off of work that needed to be done in and out of the classroom. So, what Notre Dame has here, is basically what they were going to have this fall.
Depending on what happens in the 2021 post season (with attrition and with more recruits), 2022 really does look quite frightening from a numbers perspective. Again — it’s the recruiting whiff of the 2019 class that is really the bigger issue here. Add a couple of developed seniors to this mix and we could be singing a different tune.
Of course, by this time next year, we could be singing the praises of Deion Colzie and Lorenzo Styles and things will feel a lot better. Who stays for that 5th year between Austin, Wilkins, Lenzy, and Keys? It won’t be all of them, and at this point, I can’t say for certain who will stay or move on — but it’s something to keep a close eye on as the 2021 season unfolds.
The situation isn’t as good as it could be right now. The recruiting misses and missteps put them in a bad position as we roll out of spring football — but people making sweeping accusations of nondevelopment at the position are dead wrong — and stupid. Miles Boykin, Will Fuller, and Chase Claypool would like to have a word with you about that — so would Javon McKinley.
The level of recruiting needs to go up, but the development has never been as bad as some fans want to believe.
Back To Jordan Johnson
Again... Jordan Johnson wasn’t going to make a significant impact with the Irish in 2021 based off of work that needed to be done in and out of the classroom. That’s on Johnson and his work ethic and his desire to be a big time player.
What are you really mad about? All I keep seeing is people bitching about how you have to let a 5-Star player play. Do you realize how silly and dumb that sounds? Notre Dame should just play a guy that is struggling in the classroom and can’t learn the plays because his extra star is going to make the difference on gameday?
I mean... was Jordan Johnson even a real 5-Star? His absolute best trait as a football player was his route-running ability. Not his speed, or size, or freakish athleticism — his route running. How does he make that skill dominant if he doesn’t understand the plays? How does he make the field if he can’t make it in the classroom, or if his attitude was less than desirable for the team?
Jordan Johnson is just a disappointing case of someone who was misevaluated in high school by the recruiting services. No matter where they had him ranked, Notre Dame offered him and wanted him on the team, but Johnson wasn’t able to fulfill his end of the bargain for the Irish staff to fulfill theirs in developing him despite the desire and need by the staff to do so.
Johnson’s transfer decision caused a shit storm by the Irish fanbase because they can’t see past a star ranking. The real issue here is a recruiting strategy that hasn’t worked out in terms of filling out a roster. Add that to injuries that slow development, and we arrive at the situation at hand.
Would the shit storm have been as loud and proud as it was if Jay Brunelle would have announced his transfer? It would not — and yet — it should have. Brunelle was seemingly pushing harder for a spot on the depth chart, but since he was a 3-Star player, somehow that makes the bigger difference.
The Irish may have to dip into the transfer portal themselves to help their roster out this season, but that isn’t a long term fix to recruiting issues. Of course... there is Thomas, Colzie, and Styles to put your hopes into, because for some fans it’s all about the shiny new freshman toy.
Perhaps those freshmen will put more of the work in that’s needed to see the field. There’s need and opportunity which is something that was there this entire time for Johnson, but he chose a different path.