Adding numbers to a recruiting class 11 months before signing day is no longer uncommon.
Getting a verbal commitment from a talent like Braden Lenzy in February is no ordinary day in Notre Dame football recruiting.
Lenzy, a 6-foot-1, 160-pounder out of Tigard, Oregon, pulled the trigger Wednesday on what seemed like a too-good-to-be-true lean toward Notre Dame before becoming Irish verbal commitment No. 11 in the Class of 2018.
“(Notre Dame) made it clear they want me to do kickoff return and use me as a deep threat, across the field,” Lenzy told Irish Illustrated. “Just being an athlete, similar to what I’ve been doing already in high school, just on a bigger scale with a quarterback that can throw it a lot farther.”
Lenzy, a wide receiver/cornerback, is expected to join Notre Dame verbal commitment No. 10 – 6-foot-5, 195-pound Micah Jones (Gurnee, Ill.) – on the offensive side of the football.
Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long and receiver coach DelVaughn Alexander appear to have won the battle within the Notre Dame program to utilize his skills on the offensive side of the football.
Whereas Jones trends more toward big-wideout/long-term tight end prospect, Lenzy is an ultra-athletic, take-the-top-off X receiver. He’s built strikingly similar to a guy named Will Fuller, who caught 138 passes for 2,352 yards and 29 touchdowns during his sophomore/junior seasons with the Irish in 2014-15 before leaving early for the NFL as a first-round draft choice.
Disclaimer: Not saying he’s going to be the next Will Fuller. When Fuller left Notre Dame, he qualified as a once-in-a-generation type performer.
What we are saying, however, is that there are a ton of similarities between these two thoroughbreds, and on high school film, the one difference is the hands.
Lenzy’s are better.
In fact, one of the stand-out characteristics of Lenzy’s game is his soft hands, whether he’s elevating to make a catch at receiver or making a jump-ball play as a defensive back.
The shared characteristics with Fuller are the top-level athleticism, speed and an uncanny grace that makes leaping and contorting to make a catch look easy. At a listed 6-foot-1, 160 pounds, his build is strikingly similar to Fuller’s when he arrived out of Philadelphia in 2013.
Listed as a four-star prospect, only the slight build and perhaps the Oregon prep competition prevent him from a five-star designation at this stage of the process.
Lenzy, who caught 43 passes for 840 yards and five touchdowns as a junior, had his head turned by Notre Dame from the outset. By the time he completed his Junior Day visit the weekend of Feb. 11-12, it was only a matter of time before Lenzy – who also plans to run track at Notre Dame (a la current Irish CB Troy Pride Jr.) – landed in the Irish stockpile.
This kid has flat-out gazelle-like athleticism. He is explosive out of his two-point stance and possesses a beautiful, free-and-easy running motion with a gracefulness to his game.
On some of his best receptions/interceptions from the 2016 season, his hands are like pillows as he football softly adheres to his grasp. His ability to effortlessly twist and turn to make catches is, quite frankly, abnormal.
Lenzy is an equally-talented cornerback prospect with exceptional hip turn in pursuit of a receiver and that nonchalant closing speed. He shows his football instincts on the defensive side of the football with a high degree of anticipation and physicality.
Lenzy’s arsenal is filled with five-star qualities. Route-running for speedsters usually is the last asset that develops, as it was with Fuller. Such is the case with Lenzy as well, but his athleticism and attention to detail should bridge that gap quickly.
At the very least, he’ll arrive at Notre Dame – after another year of physical development – with immediate deep-ball capabilities.
Fuller was a relatively weak athlete when he arrived at Notre Dame; Lenzy is more of a wiry, spring-loaded athlete, which especially shows itself on defense.
The worst thing about Lenzy? He’s not in the Class of 2017, although that extra year of physical development before he arrives should be greatly beneficial.
Although predominately a West Coast phenomenon at this stage of the recruiting process – USC, Stanford, Oregon, UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State, Cal and Washington offered scholarships – Lenzy had caught the attention of Utah and Colorado heading west while picking up offers from Michigan State, Illinois and Purdue.
It was only a matter of time before offers cascaded toward Lenzy from all parts of the country.
After landing four verbal commitments last week – two from defensive backs (Kalon Gervin and Derrik Allen), one from an offensive tackle (Cole Mabry) and one from a receiver (Jones) – Lenzy adds to the jet-propelled momentum the Irish have generated on the recruiting trail.
Previously, we listed Allen as the top prospect among the Notre Dame verbal commitments in the Class of 2018. There’s a new co-No. 1, one on each side of the football.