NCAA Football News
After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon Sayles, Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the class of 2016.Here we present the Top Wide Receivers.
- Overall Top 200
- Interior Linemen
- Dual-Threat Quarterbacks
- Defensive Backs
- Offensive Tackles
- Running Backs
- Defensive Tackles
- Tight Ends
- Defensive Ends
- Pro-Style Quarterbacks
Pass-catchers play a prominent role in the 2016 college football recruiting cycle, claiming more spots among top-200 prospects than any other position. It's a group that figures to elevate aerial attacks for offenses across the nation in coming seasons.
We've spent the past year scouting these dynamic young talents through in-person assessments at camps, showcases and live game action, along with film study. Here's a closer look at wide receivers who've emerged as elite members of a star-studded class, grading each recruit based on speed, agility, release, route running, blocking and—of course—hands.
All prospects scouted by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. Players ordered by appearance in 247Sports' composite rankings.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Notre Dame football squad loaded the bases and shuttled south through Indiana on Thursday, heading to Culver, Indiana, for the start of fall training camp Friday morning:
With the season opener against Texas quickly approaching, Irish head coach Brian Kelly met with the media Thursday morning to preview Notre Dame and its upcoming campaign.
What should Irish fans be watching when camp opens?
As hampered as Notre Dame was by its turnovers in 2014, the Irish defense did the squad no favors down the stretch in the regular season.
Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder enters his second year in South Bend and returns the bulk of the 2014 contributors.
“We have a number of guys who played a lot of football for us,” Kelly said. “The second year into Coach VanGorder's nomenclature, way of communicating the defensive structure, certainly everybody is much more comfortable with what they're doing, what their assignments are, what their task is, and we probably have some of the best leaders that we've had here at Notre Dame.”
Kelly called linebacker Joe Schmidt’s ability to communicate and recall information “off the charts.” The head coach also listed fellow linebacker Jarrett Grace, defensive tackle Sheldon Day, defensive back Matthias Farley and cornerback KeiVarae Russell as effective leaders on the defensive side of the ball.
“At times last year we struggled with communication,” Kelly said. “This year we feel so good about the ability to get the task done defensively because of great communicators.”
Confident and exuberant starting quarterback Malik Zaire will draw eyeballs Friday, as he steps into view as the undisputed general of the Irish offense.
With limited meaningful game experience at Notre Dame, we’ll see what the southpaw brings as a runner, thrower and leader.
Zaire rushed for 96 yards on 22 carries, including one touchdown, in the Music City Bowl victory over LSU. How similarly does Notre Dame run its offense in 2015, and what does Zaire bring to the read option?
“Anytime you have a quarterback in Malik Zaire that you feel confident that he could get the ball to your wide receivers and balance out the numbers in the running game as somebody that could run the football, it’s a great equalizer in college football today,” Kelly said.
As a passer, Zaire has only logged 35 attempts (21 completions) in his Irish career, totaling 266 yards and one score. Kelly said the Ohio native still has work to do technically, a continuation of a process from the summer, when Zaire worked with former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer at the Elite 11. For instance, Dilfer tutored Zaire on his stride and how it can affect Zaire’s timing.
Never lacking confidence, Zaire now takes over the offense.
“As a leader, he has some natural innate ability to stand in front of the group,” Kelly said. “What we're working on is clarity in message—tendency to get a little emotional in the way he talks—and you guys have interviewed him. He goes off on tangents a little bit, so we have to reel him in a little bit. And he'll do that a little bit in front of the group, and that's fine because he's comfortable in front of the group.”
Junior Greg Bryant won’t play for the Irish in 2015, changing the running back landscape.
Fellow junior Tarean Folston is still the top dog, and C.J. Prosise, a converted slot receiver, is now fully with the running backs.
Kelly praised Folston for his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and his improved pass protection, a noted sore spot in the middle of the 2014 season.
“He's going to be called on this year to carry a larger load for us as a featured back,” Kelly said. “But what we like about him is we know what we have there, and he is an established, national-caliber running back, and that is a strength for any football team going into the season.”
Kelly lauded Prosise’s “home-run” ability and said the 220-pound speedster will have the opportunity to land a lot of carries.
“Becoming more comfortable running north and south and being patient [is key for Prosise],” Kelly said. “The biggest thing with running backs is their patience and letting the offensive line work in unison and work up to that next level. I mean, that is the most difficult thing.”
Second-year wide receiver Justin Brent will get an “audition” at running back, Kelly said, a position the Indiana product played during his senior season of high school.
“If he takes it and he goes downhill and he plays physical, I'll find some carries for him, and I'll get him on every special team,” Kelly said. “If he wants to do that, then I think I can get him some playing time. If not, I think it's going to be hard for him to get on the field because we have such great depth at the wide receiver position.
“Will it work? I don't know. But he is a very gifted athlete.”
Perhaps unexpectedly, Kelly labeled running back as “a strength of our offense.” It sure helps when there’s an experienced, physical offensive line to plow ahead. And echoing his spring sentiments, Kelly highlighted his line.
“We're a much more physical group than we were last year,” Kelly said.
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, center Nick Martin and right guard Steve Elmer return plenty of starting experience, while right tackle Mike McGlinchey is an imposing figure at 6’7½,”, 310 pounds. Redshirt freshmen Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars will compete for the left guard spot.
“I think the strength there is experience, size and we now can really say that physically that we can match up with anybody,” Kelly said.
Martin, Kelly said, is fully healthy and weighs more than 300 pounds—“just a different football player,” Kelly said—now that he’s 100 percent heading into the season.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.
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