The Notre Dame passing game was serviceable in 2023, but in big games, like against Ohio State, it struggled. In that game, Sam Hartman only threw for 175 yards and he certainly didn’t have receivers running open all night.
Well, the passing game could easily go from serviceable to disastrous this offseason if Marcus Freeman doesn’t act. Freeman decided to replace wide receivers coach Chansi Stuckey with Mike Brown from Wisconsin. That change has led to a lot of turnover in the receiver room in South Bend.
Leading receiver Chris Tyree is in the transfer portal, as is big play threat Tobias Merriweather, and four-star freshman Braylon James. Expect Notre Dame to add multiple wide receivers from the portal this offseason and these are a few that the Fighting Irish should target.
Burks jumped into the portal on Monday morning and instantly became one of the most highly-coveted players at the position. The 5-foot-11 redshirt sophomore caught 47 passes for 629 yards for Purdue in 2023 and scored seven touchdowns.
A downfield threat, an average target to Burks traveled 13.7 air yards, but he’s also capable of making plays with the ball in his hands.
Burks did only average 1.46 yards after the catch per reception this year, but he can break tackles and turn a slant into a big play. His Big Ten pedigree might make him the most appealing wide receiver option, but others put up more gaudy numbers at G5 schools and are ready to make the jump.
In 2023, Notre Dame’s top receiver, Chris Tyree, finished with 484 receiving yards. Caullin Lacy finished 2023 with 843 yards after the catch. The 5-foot-10 redshirt junior led the country in YAC, averaging 9.3 yards after the catch.
His average target came just eight yards downfield, which ranked 387th among eligible receivers, but he averaged 14.5 yards per reception which ranked 154th, a staggering discrepancy. A receiver like that is a quarterback’s best friend, and receiver-needy schools like Notre Dame are lucky Lacy entered the portal.
Oh, and he’s not just a shifty underneath receiver either. Sure he was fourth in the country in missed tackles forced, but Lacy has the speed to flat-out blow by cornerbacks on the outside.
Nearly 70% of his snaps came from the slot, but he can play outside and get downfield. He caught 10 of 18 deep balls for 447 yards and four touchdowns. He finished the year with 91 catches for 1,316 yards and seven touchdowns.
Kris Mitchell provides something that Burks and Lacy don’t, size. Mitchell is 6-foot-1 175 pounds and made 12 contested catches this season. In his final year at FIU, Mitchell caught 64 of his 100 targets for 1,118 yards and seven touchdowns.
Mitchell has already visited Notre Dame, so there appears to be mutual interest. As a graduate transfer, Mitchell would give Notre Dame immediate production, but he may be waiting to see who is at quarterback for the Irish to sign.