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Football

Adams: Forgoing Notre Dame’s next four football seasons

| Monday, May 3, 2021

Recruiting.

It’s the lifeblood of every legitimately successful college football program. Not to sound too much like Voldemort and his death eaters hyping up college football’s purebloods (i.e. recruiting dynasties), but don’t get me started on the half-bloods (i.e. developmental programs) or the mudbloods (i.e. USC and Michigan).

If there’s anything we know about where Notre Dame football stands at this moment, it’s the following:

The program needs more explosive playmakers on the outside. The head coach said as much after two embarrassing College Football Playoff appearances. It’s about getting more dynamic skill position players in recruiting (while apparently settling for three-star recruits and graduate transfers at quarterback). And, since all of Notre Dame’s success boils down to recruiting, I’m going to go ahead and forego their next four football seasons.

That’s right, forget about it. Don’t even bother looking at the schedules from 2021 through 2024. Throw ’em in the trash. It’s completely pointless.

Pretty much everyone — myself included — has looked at the upcoming season as one where you forget about the record and just worry about developing young talent for the 2022 and 2023 campaigns when you have to face BOTH Clemson and Ohio State BOTH years. But I’m HERE™ to tell you that you’re better off treating 2022, 2023 and 2024 like every sane Notre Dame fan is treating 2021: as a wash.

Again, ALL of Notre Dame’s success boils down to recruiting. Full stop. Period. End of discussion. Brian Kelly has said as much. And the fact of the matter is that Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts the last few years have led to a roster that simply isn’t good enough to win a national championship, so we need to give it a few years until the lack of potential currently on the roster ships out and makes room for some real talent.

I don’t really know what to say if this weekend’s Blue-Gold game wasn’t enough to convince you that this program is a long way away from remotely challenging college football’s elite. I really am sorry you naïve fools, but player development just doesn’t matter. Look, I don’t make the rules, I just report on them.

If the player doesn’t have five stars next to their name, then they can’t help you win a national championship — OK, the occasional four-star is passable, but you better not be taking more than a couple in any class; then there won’t be enough room for the five-stars.

Even if Notre Dame goes undefeated in 2021 — and when I say “undefeated,” I mean in the regular season, obviously — they’re going to get their clock cleaned by whoever they have the misfortune of facing in the CFP. The same goes for 2024 when the best opponent on the schedule is those scrubs at Texas A&M. (Sorry not sorry about the CFP last season, Aggies).

Even if by some miracle the Irish managed to beat BOTH the Tigers and the Buckeyes in 2022 or 2023, pure probability and opposing coaching adjustments will prevent the Irish from beating either of them a second time in the CFP — which they’re going to have to do because, you know, you have to win a whopping TWO games in the Playoff in order to win the national championship. (That is, at least for the time being; expansion is coming down the tracks, people).

Notre Dame’s latest batch of recruits — a class that reached No. 9 nationally thanks in large part to an enormous haul of 27 players — just isn’t good enough. It’s top-5 classes or bust. That paltry ninth-place effort is going to weigh down the rare superstar (re: Michael Mayer, Kyle Hamilton) the staff actually manages to lure to South Bend.

Now, you may be saying: “Hayden, your logic is absolutely flawless. But what about the 2022 class? It’s No. 4 in the nation and chock full of four-stars. What if that type of recruiting effort holds and then the staff keeps it up for the next few years? By ’25 and ’26, the ’22 recruits will be fourth- and fifth-year players. Certainly then the program could start really competing for national championships?”

Well, I hate to break it to you, but the 2022 class isn’t staying in the top five. Look at what I said five paragraphs ago. There are TOO MANY four-stars in the class taking up spots that should go to five-stars. And don’t even get me started on the three-star commits contaminating the whole of the recruiting pool. (And if those players are still at Notre Dame after four or five years, do you really think they’re good enough to win a national championship with? Three-year stars or bust, baby).

So, with all that said, I think it would be fun to look at the elite recruits Notre Dame can sign in order to bridge the gap with college football’s big boys … in 2025. That’s right, I found websites that actually hype up literal eighth-grade football prospects. And yes, I’m skipping over the next three classes because this is funnier.

If my math is correct, the 2025 recruiting class — the latest that I could actually find material on — is currently comprised of rising ninth graders. Sure, the more ‘mainstream’ recruiting outlets might not do it, but isn’t it about time to ‘drain the swamp’ of the tired old sites like 247Sports and Rivals and get with the kind of people who will resort to ranking eight-graders? If you agree, look no further than the folks over at Scouttrout.com.

Any legitimate recruiting class is built around an elite quarterback. Sure, none of these players have actual rankings, but you can only expect so much of Scout Trout.

So, looking at QB prospects, I think the Irish need to pick between Grady Adamson of Deer Creek HS (Okla.) and Sawyer Anderson of Highland Park Scots (Texas). I’d lean toward Adamson for the physical advantages he has over Anderson (5-foot-11 to 5-foot-9, 155 to 140 pounds). Plus, Adamson plays both ways as a quarterback and outside linebacker. You gotta love that versatility.

Sure, Blake Carter out of Bowie One (Md.) may be more advanced physically than the other two at 6-foot-2′ and 209 pounds, but he’s only got a 3.5 GPA compared to the other two having 4.0s. Notre Dame may have a new head coach (Urban Meyer, anyone?) with looser academic standards (a.k.a. “traits”) by 2025, but we need to make sure these kids will be able to start as freshmen regardless of their Notre Dame course load.

(No, it’s not emasculating that Carter is in eight grade and already three inches taller than me, a 22-year-old college senior…)

After that, go down and pluck athlete Luke Thompson out of Sanger Middle School (TX). The kid has physical tools like Adamson at 5-foot-11, 155 pounds. Texas knows how to breed football talent, and this is just as much about pilfering the state and setting up recruiting pipelines for the future as it is acquiring immediate talent.

Next, the pass rush is absolutely vital. You gotta get defensive end Orlando Barnes from Texarkana Middle School (TX). The kid is already built like a hoss at 5-foot-10 and 193 pounds. He’s got a 4.8 40-yard dash time and can do TWO whole reps on a 225-pound bench press. Are you kidding me? Lock him up right now before a Big 12 team realizes how important defense is.

The website doesn’t list any other prospects at the moment, and honestly, I’d be too lazy anyway to come up with crap to say about any others. But I think I’ve gotten the point across that the Notre Dame recruiting operation has gotta pick up the slack and really start grinding.

Just pray that Marcus Freeman rubs off on the rest of the coaching staff, even just a little bit. Seriously, I’m begging here. The tiniest smidge would help so much.

(Disclaimer: However much of this piece was satirical and however much was 100% dead serious is in the eye of the beholder. Hope you enjoyed!)

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

Contact Hayden