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irish insider

Recruiting concerns stretch to class of 2022

| Friday, October 16, 2020

While college football programs around the country continue to wrestle with the constant changes in testing, player availability and schedules, one thing remains constant — recruiting. At a time when every major program is adding some new installation to their locker room or developing a new incentive to prospective players, they all find themselves looking through computer screens as they try to convince 16 and 17-year-olds around the country their school should be home for the next four years. Notre Dame is no different.

Throughout the first three games of the season, Notre Dame’s recruiting has remained remarkably consistent. They currently have the 10th-best group for the class of 2021, a major improvement over the class of 2020 in which they ranked 18th. That said, Bryan Driskell of Sports Illustrated identified four-star athlete Titus Mokiao-Atimalala from Hawaii as a big target for the Irish down this final recruiting stretch.

While Brian Kelly and his staff still await national signing day to confirm the class of 2021, Driskell said the class of 2022 is likely a greater concern for them, considering the current obstacles to recruiting. As some states remain closed and high schools try to navigate their own seasons, there simply isn’t enough footage available for programs to evaluate.

“There’s kids that they can’t evaluate. They liked them as sophomores,” Driskell said. “Now those kids aren’t playing. Some kids in Michigan just got started. There’s just not enough film to evaluate the class of 2022.”

While Driskell acknowledges this is an obstacle affecting every program, he admitted that Notre Dame’s unique recruiting strategy might be particularly impacted by the virtual approach.

“That hurts all schools but because Notre Dame puts so much emphasis on its entire package, I do think it could hurt them a bit differently,” he said. “Notre Dame doesn’t just sell football. They sell the whole thing — the whole experience. Community, what Notre Dame, the institutions, can offer these young people as opposed to just football.”

Driskell said face-to-face meetings can make a huge difference for both the player and the team. On the one hand, schools can evaluate how a player’s skill sets might translate beyond the confines of film. On the other hand, players get a realistic sense of what their day-to-day might look like as a student-athlete. He likened the process to marriage, enforcing the importance of introductions and transparency before committing.

“A lot of these kids haven’t had that first meeting to really take the relationship to the next level,” he said.

One player Driskell said he expects the Notre Dame coaching staff to be very excited about in the coming months is Sebastian Cheeks, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound linebacker from Evanston, Illinois. The four-star recruit from the class of 2022 has offers from 15 programs including rivals Stanford and Michigan.

While the last six months have certainly hindered Notre Dame’s recruiting momentum, Driskell said their reputation for being proactive on getting recruits out to campus early in the process certainly works in their favor as some of the class of 2022 has already made that first impression.

“Notre Dame experience is a whole lot more impactful when you experience it in person,” Driskell said.

Going forward, Driskell said Notre Dame needs to keep their eye on the prize — Nov. 7 — knowing it has major implications not just for this season but for the competitiveness of the program in years to come.

“Handle your business against Louisville, Georgia State,” he said. “Notre Dame needs to continue to win and continue to show they’re a top-five football program because the best players want to win.”

Notre Dame Athletics
Irish senior running back Jafar Armstrong carries the ball in the first half of Notre Dame’s 52-0 shut out of South Florida at Notre Dame Stadium.

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