The top-rated prep receiver to sign with Notre Dame during the Brian Kelly – No. 55 overall prospect and No. 9 wideout in 2016 – Javon McKinley caught 174 passes for 3,596 yards (20.70-yard average) and 38 touchdowns during a sensational prep career at Centennial High School in Corona, Calif.
As a junior, McKinley caught 91 passes for 1,906 yards and 20 touchdowns, followed by a 56-catch, 1,173-yard, 13-touchdown senior season.
McKinley never seriously pushed for playing time as a freshman at Notre Dame, particularly with the emergence of fellow classmates Kevin Stepherson and Chase Claypool. It already had been determined that McKinley would preserve a year of eligibility when he suffered a broken fibula on the practice field during the last week of October.
McKinley returned to action this spring and repped at the W position with Miles Boykin. He saw limited-to-no contact work, but managed to participate in the Blue-Gold Game wearing a red jersey to signify no contact.
• Class: So (Eligibility: 4)
• On The Depth Chart: The No. 2 W receiver behind Miles Boykin
• Post-Spring Status: Unchanged
MCKINLEY AT HIS BEST
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound red-shirt freshman saw action in the Blue-Gold Game, but was limited following his fall leg injury and participated in a red shirt. Offensive coordinator Chip Long still was able to get McKinley involved. McKinley caught two passes for 17 yards.
“He’s a good player. He just needs to get out there. He’s gotten behind a little bit, but he’s going to help us in the fall…He’s such a big kid, I think the red jersey should go on the guy that’s going against him. He always gets the other guy hurt.”-- Brian Kelly
BEST CASE SCENARIO
The W position remains up for grabs to some extent. Although Miles Boykin began to make a mark in ’16 and emerged as the starting W receiver in the spring, he’s far from fully established.
Fifth-year grad transfer Cameron Smith (Arizona State), who is expected to line up at W, has had significant knee issues in the past. McKinley may need a bit of help, but if he can put forth a promising pre-season camp, he can keep his name in the mix at a position that has yet to be nailed down.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
McKinley’s situation became a bit more difficult with the arrival of Cameron Smith from Arizona State. It could be another year before McKinley makes an impact with the potential for Equanimeous St. Brown to leave if he were to have a successful junior season in 2017.
McKinley has gone virtually step-for-step with Miles Boykin one year removed. Boykin preserved a year of eligibility as freshman in ’15, began to emerge in the spring of ’16 and played a complementary role at wide receiver. McKinley is in that position now.
Another highly-ranked wide receiver coming out of high school – DaVaris Daniels – preserved a year of eligibility in 2011 and then caught 31 passes for 490 yards as a red-shirt freshman, although McKinley does not appear to be positioned for that kind of breakout season in ‘17.
The second highest ranked wide receiver of the Brian Kelly era behind McKinley is Justin Brent, who failed to make a mark at receiver before a position change to running back and an injury that ultimately ended his playing chances at Notre Dame.
The best comparison at the present time is Boykin.