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Irish continue to find impact talent in the Peach State

| Friday, October 30, 2020

With back-to-back seasons playing in the Peach State, Notre Dame is making themselves at home in Georgia. The Irish have long dominated the upper Midwest and they’re starting to carve their way into SEC territory. According to Bryan Driskell of Sports Illustrated, these gains in recruitment can be attributed to Georgia’s population growth and a select group of high school programs that have proved to be reliable pipelines for Notre Dame.

“If you just look at Georgia in the last decade, I mean, part of being really good at recruiting is understanding geographic trends and geographic trends are going to impact the volume of talent,” Driskell said. “But what we’re seeing in Georgia, in North Carolina, is over the last decade or so as those states have grown economically, you’re seeing more and more kids coming out of those states. And Notre Dame has really taken advantage.”

The Georgia talent pool isn’t new, but Notre Dame’s participation is. Driskell said that for much of the late-Charlie Weis, early-Brian Kelly era, while the Georgia players were high-impact, they were low in quantity. But that has changed in the last couple years. The Irish currently have six players from Georgia on the roster, including safeties Kyle Hamilton and Isaiah Pryor, junior running back C’Bo Flemister and junior tight end Tommy Tremble.

“It’s a state that Notre Dame is trying to pay a lot more attention to,” Driskell said. “And playing a game down there in those young men’s backyard is certainly something that can be impactful.”

Ann Curtis | The Observer
Sophomore safety Kyle Hamilton is one of six players on Notre Dame’s roster hailing from Georgia.

Driskell also credited Notre Dame’s 2012 move into the ACC for giving them greater exposure in the states with vastly growing populations.

“The fact that Notre Dame does play that ACC schedule,” Driskell said. “They do travel to Georgia Tech, they do travel to the Carolinas and South Carolina to play Clemson, Florida and all that, I think it’s helped them really get a foothold in the mid-Atlantic in the southeastern region.”

That said, Driskell made a point to talk about what makes Atlanta specifically a great recruiting source for Notre Dame — academically rigorous high schools with strong football programs.

“They’re really good high-level academic prep schools,” he said. “And there’s a lot more football players coming out of those schools as well. … You’re going to find more Notre Dame type of student-athletes in Atlanta than you are in a lot of the other metropolitan cities around the country.”

Brian Kelly has long commented on the challenges of Notre Dame recruiting, having to ensure that players will be able to adjust to the academic and social challenges of the University. Knowing that they’ve been well prepared is always a welcome addition for his staff.

Going forward, Driskell said the Irish are essentially set in the class of 2021 and keeping their sights on the class of 2022. This is particularly relevant considering the recent announcement that the NCAA made giving all players the option for another year of eligibility, throwing Notre Dame’s roster count into question.

“If we want to bring some kids back, we can bring some kids back. If we’re going to take a kid [in] 2021, he needs to be a guy that we view as an impact player,” Driskell said.

Meanwhile, on the national college football scene, Driskell estimates the Notre Dame is right where it wants to be among its peers. With the exception of USC who is yet to return to play, he says most of their rivals are also winding down their incoming classes.

“I think USC is going to start ramping up to put some finishing touches on their recruiting class these next couple months now that they’re getting back to football,” he said. “Kids can’t visit … and they can’t go on the road and see kids so it’s just one of those things where there’s just not a lot of movement going on right now.”

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