WR Javon McKinley working to return for fifth season at Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Wide receiver Javon McKinley intends to return to Notre Dame for a fifth season, a source familiar with McKinley’s plan told the Tribune on Friday.

McKinley, who is on pace to graduate in May with a marketing major from the Mendoza College of Business, met with head coach Brian Kelly earlier this week and has a meeting scheduled with an academic advisor to discuss a graduate program, the source told the Tribune.

Another source close to the situation indicated McKinley still has work left to do to earn a spot on the 2020 roster.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound McKinley would give Notre Dame’s offense some needed experience at the wide receiver position in 2020. Four of the five leaders in receptions from Notre Dame’s football roster last season will not be returning.

In his first season of meaningful playing time at Notre Dame, in 2019, McKinley caught 11 passes for 268 yards and four touchdowns. He played in nine games and started in wins over Virginia and Virginia Tech.

In the 38-7 win at Duke on Nov. 9, McKinley suffered a mid-foot sprain. He didn’t play in the final four games of the season.

With the potential return of McKinley and the addition of Northwestern grad transfer Ben Skowronek, who caught 110 passes for 1,417 yards and eight touchdowns in four seasons with the Wildcats, the Irish would have experienced options for returning starting quarterback Ian Book.

Both McKinley and Skowronek would likely fit best at the boundary receiver position, but new offensive coordinator Tommy Rees may have different plans of how to align Notre Dame’s wide receivers.

Many of McKinley’s snaps with the starting offense last season came as the field receiver opposite of Chase Claypool. Most of McKinley’s production came in lopsided victories over New Mexico and Bowling Green.

Rees and wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander have a number of young options at the boundary, field and slot receivers positions, including juniors-to-be Kevin Austin Jr., Braden Lenzy, Lawrence Keys III, Joe Wilkins Jr. and Micah Jones, along with sophomore Kendall Abdur-Rahman and incoming freshmen Jordan Johnson, Xavier Watts and Jay Brunelle.

McKinley came to Notre Dame as a four-star recruit out of Corona (Calif.) Centennial. Rivals ranked him as the No. 11 wide receiver and No. 59 overall in 2016 class. 247Sports slated him as the No. 12 wide receiver and No. 112 overall.

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Notre Dame wide receiver Javon McKinley caught four touchdown passes as a senior in 2019 including this 14-yard catch in the 45-14 loss at Michigan.