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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
The Observer

Braden Lenzy weathers change in up-and-down Notre Dame career

Braden Lenzy has seen many changes throughout his career at Notre Dame. From a change in offensive coordinator, to his own role in the offense and eventually a head coaching change, not much remains the same as it did when he first arrived on campus in 2018. 

Initially, his role in the offense was a combination of receiver and running back. After redshirting his freshman year, Lenzy emerged onto the scene as a sophomore, hauling in 11 passes for 254 yards and a pair of scores, while adding 200 yards and another two touchdowns on the ground. 

“I’ve been used in a lot of ways,” Lenzy said. “When you’re in college, whatever the pieces are that year, the coach comes up with a game plan that best helps the team, and my role is what it is right now, and I’m just doing whatever I can to help the team win. It’s been a lot of fun.” 

More recently, his role has shifted towards being a full-time wide receiver. As a senior in 2021, he hauled in 32 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns. Many expected him to build on that breakout performance this year, but his performance has tapered off slightly. He did, however, make an incredible touchdown catch in last weekend’s win over Navy which helped spark an Irish victory. 

Lenzy arrived in South Bend as a highly touted prospect. He was a four-star recruit out of Portland, Oregon, choosing the Irish over schools like Oregon, USC and Michigan State. 

“Recruitment was very [stressful], very much a hassle. I’m glad I never have to go through it again,” Lenzy said. “If I could do it all over again, I’d for sure choose Notre Dame, [it’s] been a great help both on and off the field. I’ve met the best people in my life and really started my adult life here.”

One of the most abrupt transitions of Lenzy’s career was Brian Kelly’s sudden departure for LSU at the conclusion of the 2021 season. New head coach Marcus Freeman was able to retain most of Kelly’s former assistants, including director of football performance Matt Balis, which Lenzy said contributed to a sense of continuity. 

“The level of work is set by him, he sets the standard for everyone,” Lenzy said of Balis. “Bringing him back, it still felt like Notre Dame.”

Lenzy was a part of two College Football Playoff teams, watching from the sidelines as Notre Dame rattled off an undefeated season in 2018 before they again were selected to the Playoff in 2020. This year, though, was not what Irish fans were expecting. 

“We’ve had the winning formula for a long time, a lot of us have won a lot of games,” Lenzy said. “Quite honestly, you just have to take it on the chin. I think Irish fans as a whole have been very privileged for us to win those tight games when it does happen.” 

September’s loss against Marshall was only the second home loss of Lenzy’s career, and the first loss against an unranked opponent. Notre Dame followed it up by once again losing to a double digit underdog, this time to Stanford. 

“We’ve had these mistakes and we were able to correct them, and this time we weren’t,” Lenzy said. “But now we’ve seen it, we’ve addressed it… just kind of stepping up and going through those bumps of an in-season grind.”

Yet the Irish were able to turn the season around, and now they sit at 7-3 with two games to go. Lenzy credited continual growth for the Irish’s second half turnaround this year: “You could really see a lot of the coaches, a lot of the players, while in the offseason, but also very much so during the season, have grown on and off the field.” 

Notre Dame has welcomed plenty of new talent into the wide receiver room in recent years, notably sophomore Lorenzo Styles and freshman Tobias Merriweather. Lenzy sees himself as a mentor for that group of younger players. 

“Every year you have different tasks,” he said. “Right now, my biggest task is being a leader for the young dudes in the receiver room.”

Lenzy was able to learn from receivers such as Chase Claypool, Miles Boykin and Chris Finke when he arrived as a freshman. Now, Lenzy hopes he can fill that same role. 

“It’s a very full circle moment,” Lenzy said. “I remember being younger and looking up to some of the old dudes. I hope they look up to me the same way.”