Wide receiver should be a strength in 2003

<P>The wide receiver position has seen an influx of talent the last few years and this year is no different. Notre Dame should have legitimate depth at wide receiver for quite some time. What can we expect from the Irish wide receivers next year? </P>

Omar Jenkins has been "Mr. Consistency" throughout his career. Omar doesn't stand out every game but he does the little things that a coach likes to see. He runs great routes, he blocks, he gets open and he catches the ball. Omar can get deep as well and has made a number of big plays for Notre Dame throughout his career. I expect Omar to grab around 50 balls next year and 5-6 touchdowns. This will be Omar's final season so I expect big things from him.

Maurice Stovall should be the other starter in the two wide receiver set. Stovall should have a break out year and I expect him to have a 50-catch, 8-9 touchdown year. Stovall is a very big target and I think the Irish will look to him when they need a big play. He could become the impact player this year for the Irish. He will have two seasons left after 2003.

Rhema McKnight reminds me a lot of Arnaz Battle. He has very similar athletic skills and I expect him to take over the Battle role soon. He can be an explosive player and can stretch the field. He has great hands and adjusts well to the ball in the air. I expect him to catch around 35 balls and 5-6 touchdowns this year. McKnight should be the third receiver in the three wide receiver set and would be considered a starter. He will have two years remaining after the 2003 season. Expect some big plays from McKnight this year.

This could be the final year for Ronnie Rodamer or he could have another year left if he is granted a 5th year. Rodamer has very similar skills to Stovall and can be a great target on third down or across the middle. He has not seen much playing time since arriving but he is a very similar player to Stovall in size and skill. He has great hands and should catch around 20 balls this year and score 2-3 touchdowns. Rodamer will have to impress this year to be invited back for a 5th year.

Matt Shelton has the speed to get deep. He could be a legitimate deep threat and also contribute in the return game this year. I liked Shelton as a return man because he understood the value of north/south running on returns and doesn't dance around with the ball. He has excellent speed but needs to add some size and strength. I expect Shelton to see the field more this year at both wide receiver and possibly in the return game. Shelton should have two years remaining.

Notre Dame will add four freshmen to this group of wide receivers in the fall. Jeff Samardzija is a tall player and similar to Stovall and Rodamer with what he can do with the ball in his hands. Chinedum Ndukwe is a very physical player that will make the tough third down catch across the middle. Chase Anastasio is great athlete that could play early in his career. He has very good speed and the ability to make people miss. Ambrose Wooden is the most likely to contribute early if he can learn the offense quickly. He has blazing speed and the Irish staff will want to get that speed on the field. He could also participate in the return game.

Jenkins will use his last year of eligibility in 2003. Rodamer could be in his final year. Stovall, McKnight and Shelton will have two years remaining. Samardzija, Ndukwe, Anastasio and Wooden enter with 4 years. Notre Dame has nice depth this year and I expect at least one of the freshman to see time this year. With the possibility of losing both Jenkins and Rodamer, they will need at least 4 guys with playing experience for the following season.

The Irish have taken six wide receivers in the last two classes but don't expect them to stop there. I expect them to take two next year as well to make up for the loss of Jenkins and possibly Rodamer. Carlos Campbell will be moved to the defense in the spring so he is another loss at wide receiver. Two players will likely be targeted with a premium on speed.

For the first time in a long time, Notre Dame has depth and talent at the wide receiver position. They have a number of players who have the kind of skills that NFL scouts are looking for. Hopefully those skills will turn into big plays in the passing game.

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