How are Notre Dame's new receivers coming along? 'Very, very fast,' says Tyler Buchner
SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame’s three early-enrolled wide receivers, although working mostly with the third-team offense, have made a strong impression through five practices this spring.
“They’re very developed,” quarterback Sam Hartman said Friday of Texans Jaden Greathouse and Braylon James and Rico Flores Jr. of northern California. “Greathouse has some natural hands. Braylon is doing really well: great runner, can take the top off the defense. It’s been cool to see them and obviously Rico.”
Hartman, the Wake Forest grad transfer with nearly 13,000 career passing yards and 110 touchdowns, sees big things ahead for Flores.
Early enrollees:The tradeoff for Notre Dame freshmen as they advance their football careers
“He is going to be a special player,” Hartman said. “He’s making some great catches on the outside.”
The scouting report from returning starter Tyler Buchner was similarly sunny.
“Really talented,” Buchner called the trio. “They’re all going to be really good for us.”
Buchner called James “very, very fast,” even repeating the description for emphasis.
Flores and Greathouse have impressed Buchner with their footwork and their hands.
“They just look natural catching the ball,” he said.
Quarterbacks coach Gino Guidugli concurred.
“Those young freshmen can really run,” he said. “They’re still in the learning process. I can’t imagine, once they understand the offense better, how much faster they’ll be.”
Sophomore Tobias Merriweather, who made his one catch count for a 41-yard touchdown against Stanford last year, is flashing as well.
“Tobias is out there making plays,” Guidugli said of the 6-foot-4 sprint champion from West Camas, Wash. “Two days in a row, he’s gone up and made some big plays down the field.”
Having already thrown at Wake Forest’s Pro Day last spring, Hartman sort of knew what to expect when serving his cameo as Michael Mayer’s personal quarterback on March 24.
“It was cool,” Hartman said. “Obviously a great opportunity to get out and throw the ball to a Notre Dame legend or whatever you want to call it,” Hartman said. “It was good. When we talked, it felt like we had played together before, but we never knew each other before that.”
There were a couple of dry runs in the days leading up to the scripted performance for NFL scouts. Getting feedback from NFL types in attendance wasn’t the point for Hartman.
“It was Mike’s day,” he said. “I was really focused on just giving him his shine and his time to (show) what he deserved and what he earned from playing so well here. I was just trying to get him the ball in good spots and good locations.”
Dylan Devezin holds his ground
Walk-on quarterback Dylan Devezin is making the most of his new opportunity. With punter/holder Jon Sot out of eligibility, Devezin has emerged as an intriguing option on special teams.
“He’s already found a role inside the team as a potential holder,” Gino Guidugli said. “For him, that’s his way on the bus. To go out and help us out in practice, learn the offense, and potentially make his mark as the holder, I think it’s pretty cool after a week of practice.”
Devezin, a 2022 graduate of New Orleans’ St. Augustine High School, received an academic scholarship as part of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Leadership Scholars program launched last spring. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Devezin passed for 446 yards and four touchdowns in his final game for the Purple Knights, a 42-35 playoff loss to the eventual Louisiana Div. 1 champions.
“Dylan had tried to get on the team (last year) and there just wasn’t a spot,” Guidugli said. “We had enough arms.”
The medical retirement of backup quarterback Ron Powlus III, along with an increase in passing drills this spring practice, created a need. Dave Peloquin, recently promoted from director of player personnel, remembered Devezin from last summer and Devezin was contacted to see if he was still interested.
“We were short an arm,” Guidugli said. “We’re doing quite a bit more throwing, I guess, than we have in the past. We were looking for a guy to fill in. It was either going to be me or my (grad assistant).”
More Ivy influence
Former Yale quarterback Kurt Rawlings, the 2019 Bushnell Cup winner as Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year, was recently hired as an offensive GA following the departure of Gus Ragland, now quarterbacks coach at Miami of Ohio.
Rawlings, 25, spent last season as the offensive GA at Cincinnati, where Guidugli was offensive coordinator. Rawlings, who rewrote Yale’s record book while leading the Bulldogs to a pair of Ivy League championships, passed for 3,002 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2019.
A finalist for the Walter Payton Award, given to the FCS Offensive Player of the Year, Rawlings also won the Gold Helmet Award as New England’s college football player of the year.
Steve Angeli a 'phenomenal' prospect
Guidugli also had praise for redshirt freshman Steve Angeli when he was finally asked about him with a minute left in an 11-minute media session.
“Steve Angeli has had a phenomenal spring camp up to this point,” Guidugli said. “His decision-making has been great, his ball placement has been great. We have to find a way to get him more reps and continue to develop steve. Steve has got a shot to be a real good quarterback as well.”
Angeli took seven game snaps last season but did not attempt a pass.
Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.