Chase Claypool welcomes expectations.
The Notre Dame wide receiver isn’t afraid to mention 1,000 receiving yards as a goal for his senior season. He’s doesn’t shy away from talking about the NFL.
When told that former teammates Miles Boykin, Alizé Mack and Julian Love all named him as a candidate for a breakout year during NFL Combine media sessions, Claypool didn’t just shrug it off. He embraced it.
“It means a lot knowing I have the support from my former teammates,” Claypool said. “It gives me something to live up to. If I fall anything short of that, it’s a disappointment. I strive for that every day.”
Also on the list of personal goals for the 6-foot-4, 229-pound Claypool: 15 pancake blocks. He even mentioned 15 touchdown catches, which would put him in a five-way tie for the Notre Dame single season record. But he’s more interested in the first stat.
“As long as I get some pancakes and some tackles on the board, I’ll be all right,” Claypool said.
Notre Dame’s likely No. 1 wide receiver in 2019 still wants to punish opponents as a blocker and chase them down on special teams. He still enjoys it that much.
If given the chance, Claypool said he’d like to pancake a defensive back on every play. The opportunities, he said, are limited by Notre Dame’s play calls and the defensive scheme against him. But when he sees an opening, expect Claypool to take it.
“No one wants to get pancaked,” Claypool said. “They’re always looking out for that. It’s just another thing they have to look out for.”
Notre Dame doesn’t officially keep track of pancake blocks. His passion for punt and kickoff coverage is reflected in his 20 career tackles. Over the same three-year span, defensive end Jamir Jones has recorded 24 tackles in 34 games.
In a perfect world, Claypool would like to also have some responsibilities on punt and kickoff coverage as well as punt and kickoff returns. Claypool won’t be afraid to bug special teams coordinator Brian Polian about it either.
“I’ll probably talk to him in a little bit to make sure I get a spot in there,” Claypool said.
The spring semester has been busy for Claypool. In addition to taking on more responsibility as a wide receiver, Claypool loaded his academic schedule with eight classes for 18 credit hours. The time commitment this semester should allow for a lighter schedule during the season.
Claypool also has signed up to study in Brazil for nearly three weeks in May before the Irish football team returns for workouts and summer courses in June. At this rate, Claypool doesn’t even plan to go home to Abbotsford, British Columbia until Christmas.
The bring-it-on attitude Claypool has adopted with his education matches his mindset in football. He makes sure to go against Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame’s top cornerback, as much as he can during one-on-one drills. Claypool doesn’t just want to beat the speedy Pride with physicality. He wants to beat him deep too.
“He’s going to make me a better player every time no matter what route I have, especially on go balls,” Claypool said. “He’s one of the best go-ball DBs in the country. Especially if I have that route — without trying to tell him I have that route — I’ll make sure he covers me so I can get a little better.”
Claypool has made sizable improvements in each of his previous two offseasons at Notre Dame and it translated to the fall. More than half of his career offensive production came last season when he totaled 50 catches for 639 yards and four touchdowns. A senior season with more production than Miles Boykin had in 2018 (59 catches for 872 yards and eight TDs) should be within reach.
In order to do that, Claypool wants to make strides as a better route runner, a more consistent catcher and a more dynamic threat for yards after the catch. Claypool knew he wasn’t ready for the NFL quite yet.
“The league is the last destination,” Claypool said. “When you get to the league, you want to be as prepared as you can possibly be. If I can get better before I go to the league, then I’m going to use that year to get better.”
Claypool wants everything to be bigger and better in 2019.
“I’m trying to leave behind a legacy,” Claypool said, “and something that people remember me here for.”