With 12 verbal commitments in Notre Dame’s recruiting Class of 2018 and eight or so spots remaining, the Irish are fast approaching their quota in some areas, including wide receiver.
With a target number of four pass-catchers, the Irish have received verbal commitments from Braden Lenzy (Tigard, Ore.) and Micah Jones (Gurnee, Ill.) with a strong upward arrow pointing toward Kevin Austin (Coconut Creek, Fla.), who visited a couple of weekends ago for the Blue-Gold Game.
Presuming Austin eventually falls Notre Dame’s way, what would Notre Dame do if No. 1-rated receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (Santa Ana, Calif.) and No. 9-ranked wideout Chase Cota (Medford, Ore.) both wanted to come to Notre Dame, which would exceed the target of four?
Surely, I jest.
Not as tall as older brothers Equanimeous St. Brown (a junior this fall at Notre Dame) and Osiris (a freshman at Stanford), Amon-Ra is a dynamo in his own right, prompting Scout to list him as the No. 1 receiver nationally in the Class of 2018 and the nation’s No. 11 overall prospect.
Interestingly, at 6-foot-0, 190 pounds, he is the strongest, most physically powerful of the trio of St. Browns, but doesn’t give away anything athletically. This is a player with dynamic agility/athleticism who can hurdle a defender or make a twisting catch, remain on his feet and burst into the end zone.
St. Brown runs, in many cases, indefensible pass routes against high school competition. His “jittery” nature going into and coming out of breaks is accomplished seamlessly and with outstanding quickness.
St. Brown is an elusive route-runner, which means once he makes the catch, he’s already gained separation from the defensive back and finds himself in the open field. He applies those same characteristics as a return man.
Because St. Brown has such good feet, he’s difficult to jam at the line of scrimmage with his extricating elusiveness. He’s explosive off the snap with a forward lean, which puts secondaries in jeopardy from the outset.
Even against top-notch high school competition – which Mater Dei faces on a regular basis -- St. Brown can run by defensive backs. He also has the advantage of having a major-college quarterback (Class of 2019 prospect J.T. Daniels) dropping raindrops into his hands.
There was nothing notable that indicates St. Brown’s hands are a negative, particularly when you see him make a twisting one-handed grab in the end zone.
When you add his physical skills with his confidence against top-level competition, it’s no wonder St. Brown is considered one of the nation’s top jewels in the Class of 2018.
SINCLAIR ON ST. BROWN
“St. Brown has a brother at both Stanford and Notre Dame, two of his top schools. USC, UCLA, Penn State, Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State fill out the rest of his top group. Ohio State and USC are coming on strong, but St. Brown maintains Notre Dame is very much in the discussion. His recruitment will gain clarity as he takes his official visits.”
It’s rare that Notre Dame lands one player from Oregon, let alone two. But with Lenzy already verbally committed to the Irish, they have a shot at the daily double with 6-foot-4, 195-pound Chase Cota out of Medford, Oregon, whom Scout rates as the No. 9 wide receiver and No. 46 overall prospect.
With his long locks flowing and a “surfer dude” image, Cota defies the stereotype. This is a kid that goes from 0-to-60 in short order with a hard-charge off the line of scrimmage and long but rapid strides. Cota has “running from danger” urgency off the snap.
There’s a fearless nature to his game, throwing his body around at receiver as well as cornerback. He uses his hands well to get off press coverage and runs by most of the Oregon prep competition. But he also has stop-on-a-dime ability against defensive backs who are in backpedal mode from the outset. That allows him to catch passes underneath in space and zip upfield.
He’s not shifty like St. Brown – more of a one-cut-and-go runner – but he’s a weapon in the red zone. Cota shows physicality after the catch when appropriate. He takes that physicality to the other side of the football, too. He’s a college receiver all the way, but shows a natural inclination as a defensive back breaking on the ball and turning his hips to defend the pass.
The word from Scout’s Greg Biggins is that Cota has a great work ethic and is a high-character kid. A concern in Oregon is the competition level, but Cota has unmistakable major-college talent.
SINCLAIR ON COTA
“The four-star Oregon speedster has most of the Pac 12, some of the SEC and Notre Dame knocking on his door. His dad is an Oregon alumnus, but played for the Indianapolis Colts and knows Brian Polian well. This looks like a tight battle among Oregon, Notre Dame, USC and UCLA. This one is far from over.”
WIDE RECEIVER COMPARISONS
Perhaps the greatest separator between St. Brown and Lenzy/Cota is the competition level. That’s a huge advantage for St. Brown because the learning curve, or at least the speed of the game, should not be shocking when he matriculates to the next level. But there’s no doubt that Lenzy and Cota have the skills to adapt.
Lenzy benefits greatly from opponents fearing his ability to run by them. Thus, he sometimes catches passes underneath with a 10-to-15-yard cushion. He then just carves up defenders in the open field.
Cota gets the football in his hands on quick stop-routes as well, and he has the speed to burst through a crease. But he’s less likely to zig-zag his way through traffic to the end zone.
For the purpose of this comparison, we’ll “assume” Austin is heading Notre Dame’s way as well. Austin is a long, loping, galloping receiver who uses his extra-long stride to burst past players. But he’s also incredibly elusive in traffic. He has a great sense for daylight and anticipates the “move after the move.”
Austin may not be as polished in his route-running, which we saw evidence of in camp settings. But once the football is in his hands, he can wreak havoc.
Micah Jones, to me, is a bit of an outlier among St. Brown, Cota, Lenzy and Austin. The bulk of his work is underneath, which generally means he’ll need extensive route-running work on the next level. He has big paws and swallows the football. But he’s more raw than the above-mentioned four. I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes more of a Y receiver (tight end) in Chip Long’s offense, provided he adapts as a blocker.
In terms of positions at Notre Dame, Jones likely is limited to the W among the three wide receiver spots. The other four could play the X, but Cota would be a dynamic W. Lenzy fits the old Z definition pre-Long, but also X. Austin could be a dynamic X or W. St. Brown could play anywhere, but X or even the slot would be good places to unleash his ability.
If all five ended up at Notre Dame, they’d make the adjustment of dispersing the talent across the board. That would be a good problem to have.