Notre Dame will have five first-time starters on offense this season, but only one will be a true freshman.
Freshman TJ Jones got the nod over senior Duval Kamara to start at an outside receiver spot in the season opener against Purdue on Saturday.
"I was working towards it, and it was definitely a goal. But now that I actually have that role, it is still mind blowing," Jones said of being a receiver.
Coach Brian Kelly said Jones was able to lock up the starting spot because the freshman was only used in the outside role while others were moving around to different receiver positions, and because Jones was able to quickly figure out the playbook.
"TJ has exhibited a maturity in handling all the things that we've thrown at him at that wide receiver position at an early age," Kelly said of the player who enrolled early and participated in spring practice. "Some are older and struggle with it, quite frankly. And he's been able to process it all and retain it.
"I think a big part of this is retention, the ability to come back and do it. TJ has shown a great capacity for retention."
Jones said he hasn't called any of his family in Gainesville, Ga., yet about being named a starter, but he did get a text message from his father.
"He was pretty pumped that he had a son starting at Notre Dame as a true freshman," Jones said.
Along with getting his dad excited, Jones' starting role gives him something over his godfather – former Irish and NFL star Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, who didn't start as a freshman.
"That is one thing I can one-up him on, but there are a lot of things he can one-up me on," Jones said. "I'll be calling him before our first game Saturday and get some words of wisdom and pointers on what he thinks I should do."
Even though Jones is the starting over Kamara, Kelly said the senior receiver will play an important role in the offense.
"Duval has played all three positions, and to be quite honest with you, he hasn't had a chance to settle into that position yet," Kelly said. "Duval, quite frankly, could play more than just one. He's a very valuable player on our football team."