Avery Davis emerges from uncertainty to experienced leader of Notre Dame's wide receivers

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

The path to this spring couldn’t have been less predictable for Avery Davis.

When he signed with Notre Dame as a quarterback out of Cedar Hill (Texas) High in 2017, he didn’t imagine he would be the most experienced wide receiver on the Irish roster heading into the 2021 season.

“I never would have predicted that, especially coming in 2017,” Davis said. “If someone would have told me that, I would have told them they were foolish.”

Not only has Davis played in more games (31) than any other skill player on the Irish offense, he has more career receptions (38) than the next two wide receivers behind him: seniors-to-be Braden Lenzy (18) and Lawrence Keys III (17).

But a former three-star quarterback switching positions isn’t unheard of in college football. What makes Davis’ journey so remarkable is the number of dead ends that led to him finally finding a home a wide receiver.

His stay at quarterback lasted just one season while he didn’t play in any games as a freshman. Davis then dabbled with both running back and wide receiver as a sophomore. Then he started preseason camp of his junior season as a cornerback before moving back to wide receiver for good.

The continuity of the last two seasons haven’t made Davis forget how hard it was to get there.

“I would be lying if I sat here and said it was just sunshine and rainbows the whole time,” Davis said. “I definitely went through dog days. I went through days where it was complete confusion. What’s going on? Where am I going to be?

“It was at a point where I was playing a position in the fall and in the spring I was playing a completely different position. From a comfort aspect, you’re not really able to set your mind on a specific task and grow at it, because there’s such uneasiness and so much uncertainty.”

With every position switch, Davis recognized how much further ahead of him his teammates were. It wasn’t until the season opener against Duke last year that Davis started to feel confident in his position. In his first career start, Davis caught a 17-yard touchdown pass that helped put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.

“Coming out of fall camp, I was still a little bit uneasy,” Davis said. “But then after the Duke game and seeing that I could have success against somebody other than my team — because prior I had success in practice, but that’s not where it counts the most. It’s really in the games.

“So when I started playing and found success there, I got a lot more comfortable.”

The 5-foot-11, 202-pound Davis only started four games last season because the Irish opted to frequently start the game with two tight ends, but the No. 1 slot receiver role belonged to him. He finished the season fifth on the team in receptions (23) and fourth on the team in receiving yards (307).

Davis became one of the heroes in Notre Dame’s 47-40 win over No. 1 Clemson in November with a 53-yard reception that set up his game-tying, four-yard touchdown catch from Ian Book in the final minute of regulation.

Those moments were more rarity than regularity for Davis. Davis registered fewer than four catches in all but two games and totaled fewer than 45 receiving yards in all but two games.

With so much uncertainty at the wide receiver position entering the 2021 season, would it be a shock to see Davis emerge as a more consistent target as a graduate senior? Davis doesn’t know exactly what his role will be, but he’s confident it will be an impactful one.

“It’s a little bit early to say that right now, but I think that I’m going to play a significant role in this offense,” Davis said. “I think that my role will expand.”

Davis’ previous career as a quarterback could give him an edge. As Jack Coan, Drew Pyne and Tyler Buchner jockey for the early lead in the quarterback competition this spring, Davis can relate.

With a sharper understanding of his own position, Davis can help bring clarity to the quarterbacks. It’s a feeling he worked so hard to find himself.

“Most of the time, I feel like I know what they’re looking for in a specific route and especially the timing aspect and where I need to be,” Davis said. “We can kind of go deeper into it.”

“We can talk coverages. We can talk looks, because I know what it looks like from their perspective and also know what it’s like from the receiver’s perspective. It’s a more clear conversation when I talk to the quarterbacks.”

Graduate senior wide receiver Avery Davis, right, could become a bigger part of Notre Dame’s offense this fall.

“I would be lying if I sat here and said it was just sunshine and rainbows the whole time. I definitely went through dog days. I went through days where it was complete confusion. What’s going on? Where am I going to be?''

ND wide receiver Avery Davis