Position Competitions: WR Rotation

Part II examines a collection of Irish wide receiver prospects, newcomers, veterans, and even one presently at a different position; none of whom have secured a collegiate reception entering spring ball 2012.

Click the links below to review the other position battles in our series:

Field Cornerback

Right Tackle

Right Guard

Cat Linebacker

Dog Linebacker


(Unless otherwise noted, each player's class designations are referenced in terms of 2012, not last season).

Click here for Part I with the wide receivers.

Athlete to the Fore? Matthias Farley

One local publication jumped the gun regarding the S/WR prospect from North Carolina, noting last summer that Farley was among the top candidates to make an immediate impact. He was instead a Scout Team star, learning the nuances of the position at a level where out-running and jumping lesser athletes would no longer be an option as it was in high school.

But that Farley forecast might have been only a year premature, as the operative word for his spring session, and the future, is "Athlete" and without his services, the Irish receiving corps would be decidedly unremarkable in its overall athleticism next fall.

At 5'11" 195 pounds, Farley appears an early candidate to man the slot behind senior Robby Toma (though as mentioned in Part I linked above, junior T.J. Jones can also fill time in that role).

Coupled with DaVaris Daniels, Farley would bring quickness and downfield pressure to the attack, with Toma and Jones working the inside zones.

The No. 3 wide receiver role might be out of his reach. Then again, status quo at the position won't bring the Irish close to their end-season goals. Youthful mistakes can be forgiven if touchdowns, yards after the catch, and downfield strikes are repeatedly produced along the way.

Help on the Way?

Kelly has offered that the future of his running back position will be modeled after Theo Riddick: a RB/slot receiver dual-threat that gives the offense flexibility without constant substitutions to fit the play-call.

Riddick will therefore likely spend plenty of time back in his 2010-11 home as an inside target. Incoming freshman RB/Slot prospect Keivarae Russell and the perimeter wide receiver tandem of Chris Brown and Justin Ferguson won't be on campus until late June.

One wildcard for the position remains, and his (predicted) transition from the opposite side of scrimmage might not serve as the detriment it does for most players, as junior safety Austin Collinsworth's past life as a slot/wide receiver could be revisited to aid the low volume position group.

Why move Collinsworth from safety? Consider the Irish offense would prefer to use six game day receivers. Now consider they've rarely featured more than four in competitive situations. Add to that this quote by Kelly earlier this month regarding the difficulty of playing receiver in his scheme:

"If you can catch and run it shouldn't be hard at all. If you can't do those two things it's definitely a lot more difficult. I would say the only thing that's been difficult for our guys is we've been so short-handed. We just have not had the depth at that position and it really forces us to redline those guys so much. We want to play fast but we've been so low in numbers at that position…So that's why we're still recruiting wide receivers. I don't think it's been hard from a schematic standpoint…we don't blow a lot of assignments but we're still short in the depth area and it puts a lot of reps on those guys in the way we run our offense."

Jones, Toma, Goodman, Daniels, Farley…the Irish could use a sixth reliable competitor to add to their 2012 mix. With two starting safeties set in stone, four incoming freshmen to evaluate at the position in August, the expected return of 2010 safety recruit Chris Badger in June, and the potential return of 5th-year safety Danny McCarthy as part of the spring equation, could the rough and tumble Collinsworth again land a role on the offensive side of scrimmage?

We'll know by the end of spring if such an option exists outside these pages.

2012 Irish Receiving Corps

Barring a position change, the following players will compete this spring for receivers' coaches Mike Denbrock (perimeter) and Tony Alford (slot).

Junior T.J. Jones
Senior Robby Toma
5th-year senior John Goodman
Junior Daniel Smith
Junior (redshirt-sophomore) Luke Massa
Redshirt-freshman DaVaris Daniels
Redshirt-freshman Matthias Farley
Senior running back/slot Theo Riddick:
Sophomore running back/slot Amir Carlisle: Not expected to be eligible until 2013 after transferring from USC.

Justin Ferguson (perimeter), Chris Brown (perimeter), and Keivarae Russell (RB/Slot) will join the fray in August.

(Barely) Educated Guesses for the WR Rotation

For the first time since 2007, Notre Dame's wide receivers group ranks among the team's biggest question marks:

  1. In an effort to bring chain-moving consistency, toughness, and depth to the unit, Austin Collinsworth will be evaluated as a wide receiver at some point this spring.

  2. The team's depth chart following the Blue Gold Game will be as follows:
    1st Unit: Jones, Toma, Goodman/Daniels
    2nd Unit: Farley, Collinsworth, Smith/Massa

    Neither projected grouping will look the same by late-September 2012.

  3. Each member of the returning trio of Jones, Toma, and Goodman will surpass his career-best reception totals, with Toma and Goodman doubling their receptions from 2011. Daniels, however, will rank third among the group in receptions at season's end. (Tight end Tyler Eifert will lead the team.)

  4. Farley is the breakout player at the position … in 2013.

  5. Theo Riddick will be the MVP of the Blue Gold Game.

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