#CatchRequired: Notre Dame receivers learn under 'worst possible scenario'

Mike Berardino
ND Insider
Notre Dame's Tobias Merriweather during Notre Dame Fall Practice on Friday, August 05, 2022, at Irish Athletics Center in South Bend, Indiana.

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame wide receivers have been working on catching passes with one hand this training camp.

First-year receivers coach Chansi Stuckey, who invented that drill last season as a Baylor assistant, gave a detailed explanation Monday.

“We have a hashtag in our room: It’s called #CatchRequired,” Stuckey said. “I want to create the worst possible scenario in every situation. A guy has your arm, if you’re not used to making one-hand catches, you’re going to freak out. But if we’ve done this: ‘Oh, this is the drill we’ve done every Thursday.’ So, it’s in their subconscious.”

In addition to one-hand grabs, Irish receivers are drilled on a variety of circus catches: over-the-shoulder, 360-degree spins and something Stuckey terms the “Cinderella ball.” A former quarterback who converted to receiver at Clemson, Stuckey fires off-line passes at his receiver group on purpose.

“We strengthen our eyes, the muscles in our eyes,” said Stuckey, who spent four years playing in the NFL. “All those things help when you get to game day, because you don’t know when they’ll happen. How many perfect passes do we get a year? Not even a game, a year?

“Everything requires some type of contorting your body and a guy all over you, trying to defend you, but you still have to make the catch. That’s your job. It’s just trying to put guys in their environment to make the catch necessary.”

Freshman Tobias Merriweather was spotted during Friday’s open period making a one-hand helmet catch reminiscent of David Tyree’s famous Super Bowl grab against the New England Patriots 14 years ago. No leaping or sprinting was necessary in this instance, however.

“I give them a hard time about catching the ball, but it’s also another example of saving their legs,” Stuckey said. “I’m simulating this catch in a game, but we’re only doing it at 5 yards at the top. So, when it’s full speed, it’s just a reaction. You don’t have time to think about it: ‘I just have to put one hand.’ It just happens.”

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Derrick Mayes visits Notre Dame

The revolving door in NBC’s Notre Dame broadcast booth continues to spin.

Derrick Mayes, the former Notre Dame receiving star (1992-95) and Super Bowl winner with the Green Bay Packers, spoke to Stuckey’s group recently and even sat in on a position meeting.

“He was locked in,” Stuckey said. “For those guys to hear him say it … was huge. It’s like, ‘Oh, that’s what coach has been saying. Maybe this is real.’ “

Packer wide receiver Derrick Mayes is unable to grab a Brett Favre pass while being defended by Bear cornerback Walt Harris during the first quarter Monday, September 1, 1997, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 38-24.

Mayes, who scored 22 touchdowns and had more than 2,500 receiving yards while in college, shared the lessons that helped him go in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft.

Stuckey called it an “awesome privilege” for his group and said hearing Mayes allowed them to understand the program lineage at the position, one that includes Raghib “Rocket” Ismail and 1987 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown.

“You’re representing a whole conglomerate of Notre Dame wide receivers who were here before you,” Stuckey said. “These guys know your name and they’re expecting you to uphold the standard that they’ve started. And those guys go: ‘You know what, this is kind of a big deal. I’m in elite company. Let me put my name on the wall.’“

Gerad Parker's dream job

In the wake of captain Avery Davis’ season-ending knee injury, some have wondered whether the void at slot receiver could be filled by flexing out a tight end or two, perhaps even freshman enrollees Eli Raridon and Holden Staes.

“Gerad Parker has the best job in the world,” Stuckey said of the Irish tight ends coach. “Write that down. These beautiful rock, cut-out Greek gods just walk in the room. In walks Michael Mayer. It’s like, ‘All right, dude. Life’s hard.’“

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In addition to Raridon and Staes, fellow freshmen Gi’Bran Payne (running back) and Merriweather could push for early playing time in the slot.

"Just bringing him along," Stuckey said of Merriweather. "Just trying to get him to the place so midseason to the end of season he’s a very reliable guy. It’s unrealistic for him, Game 1 against Ohio State: 'Hey, we need 70 snaps from you.' You could ruin a guy that way. He will get what he’s earned."

Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for NDInsider.com and the South Bend Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino.