On Monday morning, Notre Dame freshman wide receiver and former five-star prospect Jordan Johnson announced on his Instagram account that was entering the NCAA Transfer Portal in search of a fresh start. He played two games in 2020 and did not record a catch.
Johnson becomes the eighth wide receiver to exit the Fighting Irish football program under Kelly without his Notre Dame degree or an NFL Draft declaration.
The other seven went on to varying degrees of success with their new programs. A few are even played in the NFL.
Recruiting Profile: 2009 Four-Star Prospect (No. 24 receiver, No. 160 overall) from Inglewood, Ca.
As a freshman playing for former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis, 6-foot-1 wide receiver Shaquelle Evans saw action in six games, catching seven balls for 61 yards.
On August 31, 2010, a mere five days before Brian Kelly’s first-ever game at Notre Dame — a 23-12 win over Purdue — wide receiver Evans announced his decision to transfer.
Playing time figured in.
“I don’t think he saw himself fitting in the offense,” Kelly said at the time. “We’ll release him to whatever school he chooses that is the right fit for him.”
He ended up at UCLA. After sitting out the 2010 season, Evans went on to play in 40 games for the Bruins. Over the course of three seasons, he snagged 126 receptions and 1,895 yards and 14 touchdowns, nine of which came as a senior in 2013 on a team that finished 10-3.
Evans ended up a fourth-round pick by the New York Jets and played in the NFL for four seasons and four different teams. In 2018, he transitioned to the CFL and was an All-Star in his second season.
Recruiting Profile: 2012 Four-Star Prospect (No. 14 wide receiver, No. 107 overall player) from Scottsdale, Ariz.
Davonte Neal was actually ranked the No. 8 overall player by ESPN, but no matter which recruiting service you looked at, he was the top-rated offensive skill player in the class of 2012.
That fall, he played in all 13 games as Notre Dame completed an undefeated regular season and earned a berth in the BCS National Championship game.
On offense, he touched the ball twice and finished the season with two yards from scrimmage. He also returned 21 punts for 46 yards.
In the spring, he announced he was transferring to Arizona, citing family reasons.
With the Wildcats, Neal played wide receiver for one more season as a sophomore in 2014, registering 27 receptions for 214 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games. By the next season, he’d moved to cornerback and over the next two years recorded 85 total tackles (2.0 for loss), nine passes defended and a pair of interceptions.
Recruiting Profile: 2012 Three-Star Prospect (No. 58 wide receiver) from Pembroke Pines, Fla.
Shortly after Neal announced his Notre Dame departure, classmate Justin Ferguson followed suit after a one-catch freshman season.
He found a new home heading north on I-94 at Western Michigan. After sitting out the 2013 season, Ferguson switched to safety and played in 21 games over the next three years, including a breakout senior season in 2016, where he recorded 49 tackles, six passes defended, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.
It’s unclear if Ferguson pursued professional football.
Side note: Ferguson’s departure may have influenced C.J. Prosise to move from safety to the offensive side of the ball as a wide receiver. Eventually, that led to Prosise slotting in at running back, where he produced 1,337 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns in 10 games in 2015.
Recruiting Profile: 2015 Three-Star Prospect (No. 56 wide receiver) from Allex, Texas
Jalen Guyton sat out each of Notre Dame’s 12 regular-season games as a freshman in 2015 before getting suspended from football-related activities in December.
After a year at Trinity Valley Community College in Athen, Texas, Guyton transferred to North Texas. There he showed marked improvements on and off the field. In 2017, he was named Conference USA co-Newcomer of the Year and became a second-team all-conference selection. The following season, he was a member of the team’s leadership council.
Over the course of his two seasons with the Mean Green, he caught 103 passes for 1,580 yards (15.3 per catch) and 15 touchdowns.
As an undrafted free agent in 2019, Guyton signed with the Dallas Cowboys but was released in training camp. Then the Los Angeles Chargers picked him up and he assisted the franchise as a practice squad player that fall, while also playing in three games.
The following season, he ended up playing in all 16 regular-season games for the Chargers, starting nine. He hauled in 28 receptions for 511 yards and three touchdowns.
Recruiting Profile: 2016 Three-Star Prospect (No. 66 wide receiver) from Jacksonville, Fla.
Perhaps more than any player on this list, Kevin Stepherson made an immediate impact in South Bend. In 10 games as a freshman, showed out with 25 receptions for 462 yards (18.5 per catch) and five touchdowns.
He eventually found a home at the Football Championship Subdivision level with Jacksonville State.
Leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, he put up solid testing numbers, but I believe is still looking for an NFL team to sign with.
Michael Young Jr.
Recruiting Profile: 2017 Three-Star Prospect (No. 71 wide receiver) from Destrehan, La.
Michael Young Jr. technically graduated from Notre Dame in the spring of 2020 before embarking 250 miles southeast to Cincinnati. But the 5-foot-10 wide receiver still left the program in the middle of the 2019 season, even if he remained on campus to finish his degree.
When he arrived at Notre Dame as a freshman in 2017, he was able to see the field early on and recorded a 4-yard reception in the first game of his career against No. 15 Georgia. That season, he played in a total of three games and hauled in four passes for 18 yards and a touchdown.
The following season, Young played in six games and caught seven receptions for 138 yards (19.7 yards per reception) and a touchdown.
Heading into the 2019 season, he was expected to see a major uptick in playing time as the team’s field wide receiver. But during fall camp, he suffered a broken collarbone and was out the first month of the season.
Young returned to action on Sept. 28 against Virginia and snagged three catches for 18 yards. But in the team’s next two games against Bowling Green and USC, Young recorded three catches for just two yards. He also fumbled a would-be touchdown on a kickoff return against the Trojans after breaking through the coverage unit. Fortunately, he recovered the fumble himself.
Before the Irish played another game, Young announced he was transferring and sat out the remainder of the 2019 season in order to preserve a year of eligibility under the NCAA’s newly instituted four-game redshirt rule.
The following spring, he found his new home in Cincinnati. This reuniting him with Bearcat offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock, who recruited Young to Notre Dame before leaving the program in 2016.
In 2020, he played in 10 games for the defensive-minded Bearcats and put up solid receiving numbers. He finished the year with 29 catches for 332 yards and three touchdowns, including a four-catch, 59-yard performance in a 24-21 loss to No. 9 Georgia in the Peach Bowl.
With eligibility remaining, Young will face Notre Dame this fall when Cincinnati travels to South Bend on Oct. 2.
Recruiting Profile: 2019 Three-Star Prospect (No. 59 athlete) from Edwardsville, Ill.
A high school quarterback with raw athleticism and elite speed, Kendall Abdur-Rahman was recruited to Notre Dame to play wide receiver. As a freshman, he never whiffed the field and the 5-foot-11 pass-catcher was moved to running back prior to the 2020 season.
But even a position switch couldn’t lead to playing time, as Abdur-Rahman played just two snaps as a sophomore in a 52-0 against USF.
At the start of 2021 spring practices, Abdur-Rahman decided to seek other opportunities and entered the NCAA Transfer Portal. He eventually found a new home at Western Kentucky and will technically have four years of eligibility remaining.
In addition to eight undergraduate transfers, six Irish wide receivers have gone on to other college football programs with their Notre Dame degree in hand:
• Deion Walker (Played at Notre Dame from 2008-11) – Transferred to UMass in 2012
• Corey Holmes (2014-16) — Transferred to Purdue in 2017, Morgan State in 2018
• CJ Sanders (2015-17) — Transferred to SMU in 2018
• Justin Brent (2015-17 — Transferred to Nevada in 2018
• Jafar Armstrong (2017-20) — Transferred to Illinois in 2021
• Micah Jones (2018-20) — Transferred to Southern Illinois in 2021
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