NO. 4: WR-CHASE CLAYPOOL (Soph.)
• The Journey: While Claypool never fully emerged in the receiver rotation as a freshman in 2016, he was a mainstay from the opening game on Notre Dame’s coverage teams.
In fact, Claypool had more games with special teams tackles (seven) than he did receptions (five). He finished with 11 tackles (21st on the team despite not playing a down on defense) while catching passes vs. Nevada (Game 2), Michigan State (Game 3), Stanford (Game 7), Army (Game 10) and Virginia Tech (Game 11).
The longest and most noteworthy of his five catches was a 33-yarder early in the fourth quarter against Michigan State that set up the second of three straight touchdowns by the Irish, which gave them a fighting chance to come all the way back from a 29-point deficit.
Claypool also had a 20-yard reception on a 3rd-and-15 against Virginia Tech early in the second quarter that set up an Irish touchdown and a 17-0 lead. His near catch of an end-of-first-half Hail Mary against the Spartans would have been his most memorable grab of the season.
• The Spring: With Kevin Stepherson slowed by a hamstring injury, Claypool has received the bulk of the reps (that the media has seen) with the No. 1 offense. His athleticism and length allows him to gain separation on defensive backs as the ball arrives.
On March 25 during the fifth practice of the spring, Claypool caught a red-zone touchdown pass from Montgomery VanGorder, a 10-yarder from Ian Book in 11-on-11, and a pass from Brandon Wimbush (undetermined length) in 7-on-7.
Claypool later scored on a 20-yard pass from Wimbush.
On April 8 in the 11th practice of the spring in 7-on-7 work, Claypool caught two passes from Wimbush, five from Book and one from VanGorder. His eight catches that day was a receiver-high -- one more than Miles Boykin.
• The Quote: “He’ll continue to contribute on special teams, but we need him on offense.
“It’s been a learning experience for him. We threw him right into the fire last year, and he was swimming. He’s such a great kid. Clearly, (Claypool) has definitely benefitted from being here over the year and is more consistent.” -- Brian Kelly