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Football

Staff Reactions: Irish haul in top-10 recruiting class

, , and | Thursday, December 23, 2021

Headlined by five-star Jaylen Sneed and four-star recruits at every offensive position, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish reeled in an elite recruiting class. The Irish are ranked No. 7 after the early signing period. Members of the Observer Sports staff sat down to break down the 2022 recruiting class headed to South Bend.

The recruits we’re most excited for

Nate Moller — Sports Writer

The wide receiving corps is very thin right now for the Irish, with multiple seniors on this year’s team and multiple players entering the transfer portal the last two seasons. I expect Tobias Merriweather to be involved in the Irish offense next year, as the Irish will need to find some young talent to fill in these gaps. Merriweather should fill in well with current freshmen Lorenzo Styles Jr. and Deion Colzie, and I’ll be interested to see if they play him out wide or in the slot, as he has experience at both positions. The 6-foot-4 wideout has the height and speed to become the best Irish wide receiver in recent memory.

Jaylen Sneed is the most hyped-up defensive recruit the Irish have had in a long time, and that is for good reason. The 6-foot-2 linebacker is a five-star recruit and the No. 3 linebacker in his class. The Irish are not lacking in depth at the linebacker position at the moment, so Sneed might not see the field next year, but he has the talent to be an eventual top-10 NFL pick by the time he leaves Notre Dame. Sneed has an innate ability to read the play and explosiveness that will be fun to watch during his tenure with the Irish.

Aidan Thomas — Associate Sports Editor

Have you seen the pictures of Aamil Wagner? He’s absolutely massive, and can move in a way that no man his size should be able to do. At 6 foot 6 inches and 265 pounds, Wagner almost looks like a tight end, but instead, he’s a mauler in the trenches. This guy could be a staple on the offensive line for several years.

One of the lower-rated prospects of a dynamic linebacker class for Notre Dame, Nolan Ziegler bleeds blue and gold. He’s been all-in on the Irish for pretty much his whole life, and he’s ready to bring a national championship to South Bend. Ziegler’s film excites me; he can do it all at pretty much every position. His versatility and passion for Notre Dame have me excited to see what he does for the Irish defensive corps.

Colin Capece — Assistant Managing Editor

Eli Raridon adds to a long tradition of talented tight-end recruits at Notre Dame, and he could get drafted in the top three rounds in a few years. Watching his tape must have Tommy Rees excited about what Raridon can do for the offense. He’s long and athletic with great speed, a matchup nightmare for opposing linebackers. With Michael Mayer likely leaving after next season, the Des Moines, Iowa native was a must-add for the Irish in this 2022 class.

This is the obvious choice here, but man, can Jaylen Sneed play. He’s the best defensive recruit Notre Dame has drawn since Kyle Hamilton. While the linebacker room is crowded at the moment, Sneed will be a game-changer soon. He reminds me a lot of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah with his ability to run sideline to sideline, covering running backs and tight ends. His instincts are what really stand out and make him one of the best linebacker prospects in the country. Marcus Freeman should be hyped to have a player of his caliber joining his defense.

Mannion McGinley — Sports Editor

Eli Raridon: the second Raridon to join the Fighting Irish after his father played long snapper. As Tommy Rees continues to lead this offense, his quarterbacks will look for guys like Raridon. His energy for Notre Dame — combined with his length, speed and athleticism — makes me downright thrilled to get to see him on the field for the Irish.

Having Jayden Bellamy at cornerback will bring some strength to the secondary that we haven’t completely seen. Yes, he’s a three-star, but he’s got predictive skills and an ability to read the field that make him flexible in the position and in the secondary as a whole.

Observer Staff Position Grades

Position grades were calculated as the average of each contributor’s individual grades. For each position, one of our writers provided an individual breakdown.

Quarterback: B

This isn’t so much a grade reflecting who the Irish did get — in the form of four-star Steve Angeli — but rather who they didn’t get. The Irish had a chance to keep a top-five quarterback in the Midwest with Ohio product Drew Allar, but he headed to Penn State. Angeli is a fantastic consolation prize, but it was disappointing to miss on Allar. — Aidan Thomas, Associate Sports Editor

Running Back: B+

The Irish add another four-star back to their roster in Jadarian Price to form a trifecta with Logan Diggs and Audric Estime. While the latter will serve as the speed back in Notre Dame’s offense along with Chris Tyree, the former will compete to be the every-down workhorse. Price isn’t the flashiest name, but he’s a solid player that fits what Notre Dame tries to do on offense. — Colin Capece, Assistant Managing Editor

Wide Receiver: D+

Merriweather is a great recruit — but the Irish fell short big time here, losing commitments from Amorion Walker and four-star C.J. Williams. This is a position where the Irish desperately need depth, and they simply did not address that lack of depth in the early signing period. — Nate Moller, Sports Writer

Offensive Line: A

Somewhat surprising commitments from Billy Schrauth and Aamil Wagner elevated a decent but somewhat thin offensive line class into an elite recruiting class. Out of their top nine offers, they landed three, with five others committing to in-state schools, so not particularly surprising losses. Fantastic work by Tommy Rees and Co. at this position. — Aidan Thomas, Associate Sports Editor

Tight End: A

With four-star recruits Holden Staes and Eli Raridon joining tight end U, the position achieves high marks. It all comes from their tapes. The pair can develop behind Mayer. They’ll use the skills they already have, and build others with strong running back corps and quarterback rooms to complement them. — Mannion McGinley, Sports Editor

Defensive Line: C+

I love the upside of Tyson Ford, but I think he will transition to the interior defensive line at the next level. That leaves Notre Dame without a true defensive end in this class. That’s concerning with the potential departure of Isaiah Foskey for the NFL. Freeman and defensive line coach Mike Elston are going to have to make an even better recruiting pitch to Foskey if they want him to return to South Bend after posting a team-high 10 sacks. — Colin Capece, Assistant Managing Editor

Linebacker: A+

The linebacker position is going to be scary for the Irish as this group matures. To go alongside Sneed, the Irish added highly-touted recruits in Niuafe Tuihalamaka, Joshua Burnham and Nolan Ziegler. There could be multiple eventual first-rounders out of that group. — Nate Moller, Sports Writer

Secondary: C+

The lack of safety pulls this grade down from a low A or high B. Four-stars Jaden Mickey and Benjamin Morrison are promising options for the Irish. Without a definitive future at safety, however, the Irish have their work cut out for them. Three-star corner Bellamy might be flexible enough to make the switch if necessary, though, with his field predictive skills. — Mannion McGinley, Sports Editor

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About Nate Moller

Nate is a junior majoring in chemical engineering. He is originally from a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota and is currently living in Siegfried Hall. Some of his passions include running, cross country skiing, and getting too worked up about Notre Dame and Minnesota sports teams.

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About Aidan Thomas

A junior marketing and ACMS major at Notre Dame, I've countered the success I've enjoyed as a New England sports fan with the painful existence of a Notre Dame football fan.

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About Colin Capece

Colin is a senior at Notre Dame, majoring in political science and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He hails from the great state of New York and currently serves as an Assistant Managing Editor at The Observer for the 2021-2022 academic year. You can sometimes find him on Twitter at @ColinCapeceND

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About Mannion McGinley

Mannion McGinley is a class of 2023 American Studies and Sociology major with a Journalism minor. She is a member of the Glynn Family Honors program and is Sports Department Editor at The Observer.

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