Torii Hunter, Jr. (WR) – TJ Jones, Part 2? Hunter’s late-career rise harkens to Jones as a blossoming senior circa 2013. That is, he’ll be Notre Dame’s go-to target next fall, likely more than doubling his career production in yards, receptions, and touchdowns. The rest of the unit’s talented passing game neophytes will be asked to develop alongside him.
Status: Ascending, perhaps at a national level
Kevin Stepherson (WR) – TJ Jones, Part 3? The aforementioned Jones enrolled early and took part in head coach Brian Kelly’s first spring session of 2010 and that leg up afforded him starting status as a true freshman in the fall.
Stepherson is unlikely to start but matching Jones’ Kelly-era best freshman season numbers (23 rec., 306 yds. 3TD) is not out of the question. Someone has to become a reliable No. 3 or No. 4 option.
Corey Holmes (WR) – Proved he was fast and a capable playmaker in a full practice session viewed by the media. Consistency, savvy, and nuance must accompany that raw speed if Holmes is to succeed in the slot.
Miles Boykin (WR) – Boykin will one day own the slant route and middle zones in South Bend. That day might not come in 2016, but his size, toughness (played with a spiral fracture and resulting trio of pins in his middle finger this spring) and obvious niche should afford him a spot in the game day rotation. Did I mention size? He’s monstrous on the boundary.
Status: Stagnant. It’s hard to name an Irish player that didn’t train on the boundary (W) position this spring. That wouldn’t have been the case if Boykin had seized his opportunity.
Equanimeous St. Brown (WR) – Needs to stay healthy and find a position. Like Boykin, St. Brown’s presumed ascent could be delayed by a full football season, but the Irish need one of the two to prove reliable by October.
Chris Finke (WR) – Always open.
Finke will one day earn a scholarship in South Bend due in large part to the reality that the Irish scholarship defenders struggle to cover him. Should provide insurance as a punt returner and backup slot receiver in 2016 and a larger role could result should he be given the opportunity.
Status: Ascending, but it’s a competitive position in South Bend. Finke needs to make his mark in 2016 to ensure a leg up in ’17.
Corey Robinson (WR) – Missed the majority of spring ball due to a concussion and subsequent evaluations regarding his football future. Kelly offered last week that Robinson’s decision whether to continue his football career is forthcoming. He’s had three reported concussions in the last 13 months.
Status: A step back
C.J. Sanders (WR) – Notre Dame’s top punt returner, kick returner, and slot receiver candidate missed most of the spring session after suffering a hip injury. Subsequent surgery will keep him out of action through June, with July an “important” month per his head coach. The plan is to get Sanders ready for kickoff in Austin on September 3.
Status: A step back
Note: The highly touted incoming pair of Chase Claypool and Javon McKinley will join the fray this summer.