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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

Young guns, big game: Irish sophomore receivers look to step up in 2022

With a year in the Bend under their belts, sophomore receivers Lorenzo Styles and Deion Colzie look to take an even more prominent role in the Fighting Irish offense this fall. They were some of the players to see the most field time out of their freshman class. Styles appeared in all 13 games of the season, while Colzie participated in 11. Both players will be on the Blue team for Saturday’s game.

Despite the team’s postseason loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl, Styles capped off his year with a career-high 136 yards, making up nearly 40% of his season total of 344, on eight catches. He ended to year with an average of 14.3 yards per catch and one touchdown to his name. Though his rookie season is behind him, Styles said he is looking to improve throughout his time in Irish uniform.

“I have a little bit of experience under my belt, but I’m still working every single day,” he said. “I feel like even the older guys are working every single day. It’s always just a competition, a constant battle.”

This competition among teammates has not diminished the relationships he has made with fellow wide receivers. Styles cited the older players in his position group as being mentors for him, especially sixth-year Avery Davis. Davis suffered a season-ending injury in the fall tearing his ACL during a 34-6 win at home against the Navy Midshipmen. He's still sidelined this spring as a result. Styles said he admires the graduate student and his journey, and uses this as motivation.

“I really look up to [Davis] a lot,” Styles said. “If I need some mentorship, I really just look at him and I ask for his advice.”

Going into this new season, Styles said he is focused on efficiency. He's aiming to “detail the details" and learn how to respond in specific situations on the field. He is seeking to utilize his versatility, saying he can perform anywhere he is needed.

“I feel like I could play really anywhere in the offense," he said. “I'm gonna do what's required of me for my teammates.”

However, Styles not only wants to lead his teammates on the field, but in non-game settings as well. He said he is seeking to develop the skills to be a figurehead for those around him.

“I'm working on being more of a vocal leader and being able to give guidance on the field and off the field, so I feel like that's just really the next step for me–be an example by how I work, but then also with my words,” he said.

The fuel for all of his goals and aspirations, he said, is his love of the game and of competition. He said that the intense practices instill high intensity and competitiveness among the players. Styles also added how to practice while being competitive can translate to the field. This drive allows them to work both individually and as a unity, putting up a formidable front to any opponent.

“I really just have this fire burning inside me,” Styles said. “I feel like that's why I really love the game, just going against another person is saying ‘I'm out to beat you on this round with my teammates.’” 

Colzie has a similar mindset to Styles, and said he is looking to stay consistent and continuously improve. This comes after an adjustment period in which Colzie had to familiarize himself with the world of college football. 

“The first year was more of a learning year, definitely, just trying to get the ropes of college football,” he said. “I just want to improve on the little things, the basics, the fundamentals, just kind of getting everything tied together and playing at a college speed.”

Sometimes, adjustment periods can add pressure for players to perform. That's especially for freshmen, and especially when up against the talent of the Notre Dame wide receiver corps. Despite this, Colzie is not letting it get to his head. Instead, he's focused on what he needs to do in order to improve.

“I'm just kind of focused on myself right now, improving on myself and doing what I can for the team no matter what that role may be,” he said. “Whatever the case may be, I want to do my best for the team and want to put myself in the best position.”

In addition to undergoing his own personal adjustment period, the team around him has been altered. The hiring of new coaches and staff could have the potential to rattle players. But Colzie said he did not have that problem.

“Honestly, it hasn't really affected my preparation,” Colzie said. “Right now it's just more of a ‘me’ focus, trying to improve on me and it doesn't really matter, the outside factors, as long as I'm doing what I'm supposed to do on and off the field to improve my game. That's really all that matters.”

The main reason why this shift has been relatively smooth, Colzie said, is the team’s camaraderie. He said that the team knows what is best for each other. He mentioned they keep each other accountable to that standard each day at practice. Colzie also said that the older team members have helped lead and unify the group to cope with the changes and move forward as a strong unit.

“It's a brotherhood here,” he said. “We have that connection here that we all know that we have to be the best for each other no matter the coaching situation, no matter what the situation is, just always bring your best and you know, whatever comes, comes … I feel like we all come together and really have gotten closer over this past year and [are] going into the spring right now just bouncing off each other, giving each other feedback and trying to improve every day.”