Early-enrollee wide receiver Greathouse shines in Gold team rout
J.J. Post | Monday, April 24, 2023
Heading into the 2023 Blue and Gold game, Notre Dame needed a breakout at the wide receiver position.
Simply put, the Irish have a numbers problem at wide receiver. Graduate transfer Kaleb Smith, generally assumed to be an addition that would add a consistent veteran hand to the room, medically retired a week prior. Lorenzo Styles, a breakout star from 2021 who many hoped would rediscover his form in the offseason, converted to cornerback and entered the transfer portal the day before the game.
All told, Notre Dame entered Saturday with just two players on the roster with over 10 receptions in 2022. They needed someone, either one of the team’s three early enrollee wide receivers or newly-converted slot option Chris Tyree, to show out.
Freshman Jaden Greathouse did just that.
It was difficult to find a period of Saturday’s Blue and Gold game where Greathouse was not making plays. He had a catch on nine of Team Gold’s 10 drives. Playing the entire game, even as the rest of his squad rotated, Greathouse looked comfortable whether it was graduate transfer Sam Hartman throwing him the ball or freshman third-string Steve Angeli.
After the game, Greathouse credited his connection with both quarterbacks to his relationship with them off the field.
“Sam and Steve did a great job,” Greathouse said. “It was amazing to be out there with those kinds of guys. I have a good relationship with them. Everything is super fun and light in the locker room, so it definitely translates to the football field with the chemistry.”
Greathouse’s breakout outing isn’t much of a surprise to those who have followed his game in high school. Cutting the precise profile of a player who could contribute early on, 2023 wouldn’t be the first time in the Austin, Texas native’s career where he turned heads early.
Playing at powerhouse Austin Westlake, Greathouse entered the starting lineup as a freshman, no easy feat at a school loaded with future collegiate talent. He won district co-Offensive Newcomer of the Year that year, and his resume has gone from strength to strength since.
Part of his consistent production over the past half-decade can be attributed to Greathouse’s style of play. He’s not the most athletic of Notre Dame’s 2022 receiver early enrollees: that honor goes to Braylon James. He’s not the shiftiest with the ball in his hands: that would likely be Rico Flores Jr. But, he has a natural feel for working his way through defenses and coverages that translates from high school to college ball with ease.
Asked about Greathouse before the spring game, wide receivers coach Chansi Stuckey offered the Texan a unique bevy of praise. Stuckey mentioned how “nifty” and “slippery” Greathouse is when running routes. Such slipperiness was on full display Saturday, as the freshman was almost always open on his 11 catches.
And when Greathouse was well-covered? As long as the ball was in range of his hands, he made sure it was secure. Stuckey remarked the week prior that Greathouse’s ball skills were “out of control.” Such sure-handedness is a trait that will play at any level of the sport.
Greathouse remarked after the game that while scaling his craft up to the college game is a constant process, he’s excited to continue his work.
“[I’m] working on it every day,” Greathouse said. “I take a lot of pride in my route-running. Definitely just trying to improve in any way that I can. Adjusting to the speed of the game, it’s been a pretty big challenge. It’s a lot faster than high school. But I’m definitely slowly but surely getting there, and I’m excited for the summer so we can work.”
One interesting factor in Greathouse’s development that has perhaps contributed to his elite ball skills is his basketball background. Averaging 13.8 points per game as a junior, Greathouse helped lead Austin Westlake to a 38-2 record and a state semifinal in his final season of high school basketball.
Greathouse mentioned his time playing basketball has helped him both in terms of general athleticism as well as specific mechanics.
“It’s been helpful for as long as I can remember,” Greathouse said. “It keeps me in good shape, for sure. And just being able to stay centered, trying not to get outside of my frame, that helps a lot too. Just the agility of everything, and being able to bend my body to where I can go and make plays is a big contributor.”
Greathouse ended his day Saturday with 11 catches as well as 118 yards. He also fielded several punts for the Gold team. Such special teams reps are indicative of the Irish coaching staff’s interest in getting the ball in Greathouse’s hands.
That interest could prove major for Greathouse, who has a unique opportunity to play his way into a starting role. Unlike other Saturday standouts such as sophomores Nolan Ziegler or Jaylen Sneed, there are no more experienced options standing in between Greathouse and playing time. Notre Dame has a sizable hole to fill at slot receiver. If the staff thinks Greathouse is the best player at the position, he’ll start week one against Navy.
Of course, the Blue-Gold game is just a step in a long road of workouts before Aug. 26. Marcus Freeman repeatedly referred to the game simply as “practice 15.” But for a young receiver looking to make his mark early on, Saturday was as good of a debut as Greathouse (and the Notre Dame coaching staff) could have asked for.