Tommy Rees' next order of business: Get WR Braden Lenzy more involved for Notre Dame

Mike Berardino
ND Insider
Sep 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Braden Lenzy (0) makes a catch against Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Denzel Burke (5) in the third quarter of the NCAA football game between Ohio State Buckeyes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY Sports

SOUTH BEND — Senior wideout Braden Lenzy has been quiet through five games, including a single catch for 9 yards on his only target against BYU Saturday in Las Vegas.

That came early in the second quarter despite Lenzy again leading Notre Dame receivers in offensive snaps with 53.

“I have to get Braden going,” offensive coordinator Tommy Rees said after Tuesday’s practice. “That’s on me. He’s playing at a high level. It doesn’t show in the box score, but he’s been a stud all year.”

The speedster has eight catches for 78 yards this season, resulting in a paltry 9.8 yard average. According to Pro Football Focus, Lenzy has been targeted 20 times with a high of seven in the loss to Marshall.

Chat transcript:How does Notre Dame get more out of Chris Tyree, Prince Kollie and its receiving corps?

Tyler Buchner overthrew Lenzy just before halftime on a deep post, and earlier was intercepted when throwing for Lenzy on a quick out. Lenzy, who also has contributed in punt and kickoff coverage, finished with just one reception.

“I told him he’s in the front of my mind,” Rees said. “He’s been a great leader, a great teammate. We have to get him the ball.”

Al Golden on BYU TD: 'Just a bad call'

Defensive coordinator Al Golden absolved freshman cornerback Jaden Mickey for a coverage mistake that resulted in a 53-yard touchdown pass to kickstart BYU’s comeback last Saturday.

“I put Mickey in a terrible position,” Golden said. Tuesday. “It’s just a bad call. Really, any other call, let’s say they complete it, we get them on the ground for 15 (yards) and we move on. A good call by BYU against that look, and they obviously made us pay.”

That marked the second touchdown with Mickey in primary coverage this season, according to Pro Football Focus. The other came in the season-opening loss at Ohio State, a 24-yard post on third-and-11 with slot corner TaRiq Bracy briefly sidelined by cramps.

Bracy is questionable for Saturday’s game against Stanford after suffering a Grade 1 strain of his right hamstring late against BYU.

Overall, Mickey had allowed six catches on eight targets this season. He has lined up in the slot just six times out of 71 defensive snaps.

Should Bracy be unable to play, Golden said redshirt freshman Ryan Barnes would move into the five-man cornerback rotation for the Irish. Barnes has yet to play this season after appearing in four games late last season, mostly on special teams.

Barnes’ only three defensive snaps came in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State Jan. 1.

“We’ve got to eliminate the explosives,” Golden said. “If we can do that, we’ll be sticky. We’ll be tough.”

Mitchell Evans nears return

Saturday will mark the three-month mark since tight end Mitchell Evans had surgery to repair a fractured left foot.

Notre Dame tight end Mitchell Evans (88) during the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring Football game on Saturday, April 23, 2022, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

While Marcus Freeman said recently he hoped to get Evans back in the mix by the BYU game “or soon thereafter,” it’s unclear if Stanford’s visit will mark the sophomore’s return. With the loss of backup Kevin Bauman to a season-ending ACL tear, freshmen Eli Raridon and Holden Staes have seen increased playing time along with former walk-on Davis Sherwood.

“We have a ton of belief in Mitch,” offensive coordinator Tommy Rees said. “He’s slowly getting back here. Mitch is an extremely skilled tight end. He’s a big kid, and he gives us another tight end body that can give us some mismatches to create some things in run and pass.”

Rees smiled when asked how eager Evans seems to make his 2022 debut.

“Mitch is a pretty low-key kid,” Rees said. “Mike (Mayer) kind of runs that room, but (Evans) is excited get back out there. I think he kind of found himself this spring. You can tell there’s an urgency.”

Jaylen Sneed is showing signs

Freshman linebacker Jaylen Sneed, the only five-star recruit in Notre Dame’s 2022 signing class, was part of the travel roster for the Shamrock Series win over BYU.

Sneed, who has yet to see the field but has stood out on the scout team in practice, drew praise from defensive coordinator Al Golden.

“It wasn’t because we were traveling a lot of guys,” Golden said. “We traveled him because he’s made progress. He’s getting closer. Jaylen is really athletic and gifted. He’s started to settle down and understand the game better.”

Freshman tight ends earn trust

Raridon and Staes have made a strong impression on right tackle Blake Fisher, often lining up next to the redshirt freshman in short-yardage situations.

“They’re both dogfighters,” Fisher said. “Every day we come to work, the whole offense, but those two especially. I love them. They fight their a-- off. They block extremely hard.”

While Fisher, 6-foot-6 and 327 pounds, has made six career starts, Raridon (6-7, 245) and Staes (6-4, 226) are slowly seeing their snap counts climb.

"They're freshmen; they're young," Fisher said. "I'm young. Young guys make mistakes, but as long as you learn from those mistakes and you grow, that's all that matters."

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Stanford (1-4) vs. Notre Dame (3-2) 

  • When: Saturday at 7:30 p.m. EST 
  • Where: Notre Dame Stadium (77,660), South Bend Tribune 
  • TV/Radio: NBC/Peacock, WSBT Radio (960 AM), WNSN (101.5 FM) 
  • Line: Notre Dame favored by 15½ points  
  • Series: Notre Dame leads series 21-13 
  • Last meeting: ND 45, Stanford 14, Nov. 27, 2013 in Palo Alto, Calif.