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“Next play mindset”: freshman Lorenzo Styles emerges into prominent playmaker

| Friday, November 5, 2021

Notre Dame freshman wide receiver Lorenzo Styles has emerged as a mature and versatile playmaker for the Irish during his rookie season. Joining the ranks of Braden Lenzy, Kevin Austin, and Avery Davis in the position group–with Davis especially posting a strong start to the season–Styles was immediately thrown into the machinations of the Notre Dame offense, with some of its most talented players as his mentors.

Styles started out as a steady force for the Irish, doing his job with little publicity, for good or bad. In each of the afternoon match ups against Toledo and Cincinnati, Styles recorded one reception on the day for two and 14 yards, respectively. 

However, his quiet game shifted under the lights of Notre Dame stadium. This change in atmosphere translated to a change in Styles, with the receiver emerging as a dynamic playmaker, more than a simple cog in the wheel of Tommy Rees’s offensive scheme. In the rivalry contest against the Trojans, Styles made three receptions for 57 yards, averaging 19 yards each time he touched the ball. Against UNC, he upped his stats, making three catches for a total of 74 yards, averaging 24.7 yards per play. This brings his total so far this season to eight catches for 147 yards, putting him just behind Lenzy in team stats for receiving yards. With this jump, he is on his way to establishing himself as a prominent member of the Irish roster.

Styles said that it is his mentors that help pave the way for him and his teammates. He said that this year, the senior receivers carry a lot of responsibility on their shoulders, and his goal is to do his part to help out and help them have an enjoyable senior season.

However, it is not only the upperclassmen that have aided Styles in cultivating a mentality of maturity. Despite his upward trajectory in stats, Styles still had an important missed catch against the Tar Heels. Both the highs and the lows of that night left Styles unaffected, though, and he continued to move forward

“During the game, I try to refocus, try to run back and get ready for the next play,” Styles said on the missed opportunity. “You always want to be better, always want to do better. So yeah, I’ve been thinking about that and just working on not letting it happen again.”

He said that this is his “next play” mindset. When he was told by head coach Brian Kelly that he would get another opportunity to play that night, Styles was ready to take full advantage, starting fresh. Knowing his coach believed in him, paired with years of keeping his mind on the next play, allowed him to move forward. His parents, he said, helped him adopt this mentality.

“My parents always demand a lot from me,” he said. “They always put that pressure on me. But the thing is, I always put that pressure on myself, too, so when you have both of those two things together, it goes well.”

An added pressure came when Styles came to campus in the spring to train with the team. The biggest adjustment for Styles, he said, comes in the transition from a high school offense to a college offense.

“I did not know a lot about wide receiver coming in, so I feel like enrolling early, that really helped me a lot,” he said. “There was just a bunch of technical things. I always had athletic ability, but it was just all the technical, defined details that I really had to work on when I first came.”

Because of this, Styles had to adjust his mentality to fit the style of play he would encounter in college, rather than keep the mindset he had in high school. As the game picked up, his skills had to sharpen.

“I feel like in high school I was always just trying to go super fast,” Styles said. “I never really thought about the game. [At Notre Dame] I really had to break the game down, and the game really slowed down for me. I was just looking at coverages, schemes, all those different types.”

His teammates and coaches held him accountable for doing so, as well as adjusting to the longer and more physically demanding seasons that college play brings. Seeing as the season is extended, the focus on player health becomes all the more pressing.

“We all hold each other accountable just to go get that extra rehab, do the extra things we need to for our body just so we can be ready to perform,” he said.

Players that need to be ready to perform at all times include a significant portion of Styles’ class. Several freshmen have seen the field this year, and Styles said this fact says a lot about the level of play he and his teammates bring to the team.

“We have a bunch of talented guys and I feel like the thing is everyone wants to work, everyone wants to be the best, everyone’s hungry,” he said. “I feel like that’s all you could ask for the young guys, just being hungry, wanting more and just wanting to get better every single day.”

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