Samardzija returns in 2006, and senior Rhema McKnight should fill in nicely for the departed Stovall, but both players will be gone after this season. Despite taking four receivers in 2006, look for the Irish to sign another impressive group of receivers in 2007.
How many receivers the Irish will take will likely depend again on who ends up playing where during the 2007 season.
Samardzija and McKnight are entrenched as the starting receivers for 2006, but there are a number of other candidates out there hoping to land the third and fourth receiver slots for this coming season. How this all shakes out will likely dictate the number of receivers the Notre Dame coaching staff will pursue in 2007.
Senior Chase Anastasio has two seasons of eligibility heading into the 2006 season. Anastasio has been a stand-out on special teams, but the 6-2, 205-pound Burke, Va. native hasn't seen much action as a receiver with just one career reception. Like Matt Shelton and Jeff Samardzija before, we've heard a lot of buzz about Anastasio making plays in practice, but so far that hasn't translated to game day situations. Is 2006 the year for Anastasio? The time is likely now or never for Anastasio if he hopes to return for a fifth season.
Junior Darrin Bragg has three seasons of eligibility remaining and will try to get into the mix in 2006. Bragg switched to wide receiver after being recruited as a quarterback. We've heard positive things about Bragg's potential, but he'll obviously have a learning curve in picking up the new position. The spring and fall will be very important for Bragg to make an impression or he risks being left behind by some impressive young receivers.
Sophomores David Grimes and D.J. Hord have obviously impressed the Irish coaching staff as both players were heavily involved in special teams during their freshmen seasons. Grimes appears to be the most likely to nail down the No. 3 receiver slot as he was the next guy in as the fourth receiver in 2005. Hord possesses the home run threat the Irish are lacking at receiver but is still learning the position. Both players will have to entrench themselves on the depth chart to hold off the charge of some talented freshmen.
Freshman George West is already enrolled in Notre Dame. The 5-9, 180-pound West is slated to begin his career as a wide receiver, but he could also play the corner position as well. West will certainly bring some explosiveness to the position if he remains at receiver with his reported 4.4 speed.
Rob Parris, Barry Gallup and Richard Jackson will report to Notre Dame in June and all three possess excellent skills at wide out. Parris is still recovering from a hip injury, but if healthy, he has the size (6-4, 190 pounds) to compete right away. Gallup's game is similar to West's, and the Wellesly, Mass. native should bring plenty of wiggle and speed to the position. Jackson also possesses a lot of potential and already has the body to compete early (6-3 190 pounds).
If all four freshmen do indeed stay at receiver during their first season, the Irish will have Anastasio, Bragg, Grimes, Hord, West, Parris, Gallup and Jackson at wide receiver for the 2007 season. Anastasio's fifth-year hopes will likely depend on his position on the depth chart at the end of the 2006 season.
Ideally, most teams like to have eight or nine receivers on scholarship for any given year. If Anastasio does come back for a fifth season, the Irish will likely take two receivers in 2007. If he doesn't return, look for Notre Dame to take three.
You also have to take into consideration what happens to the freshmen in the 2006 recruiting class. If freshmen receiver moves to another position, that will also open up another scholarship slot for receiver in 2007.
Irish head coach Charlie Weis certainly understands that size at receiver can do a lot of damage after watching Stovall and Samardzija shatter the records books in 2005, but he also understands speed kills, and the Irish don't have an established deep threat on the roster at this point.
Parris and Jackson possess size and Gallup and West possess the speed factor. But Weis will be looking for both in the same package in 2007, and players like Arrelious Benn, John Chiles and Duval Kamara fit the bill. The Irish are also heavily recruiting players like J.R. Hemingway, Toney Clemons and Greg Little, and don't be surprised if all end up with an Irish offer in the near future.
In the end, look for the Irish to sign two or three receivers in 2007.