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Freeman, staff have recruiting rolling ahead of Blue and Gold Game

| Friday, April 22, 2022

For those willing to recall the chaos that was December of 2021 for Notre Dame Football, the memory of Marcus Freeman’s recruiting efforts shine brightly amidst the turmoil. Freeman traveled around the country, visiting currently committed prospects and potential recruits. He kept four-star wide receiver Tobias Merriweather on board after Brian Kelly left a recruiting visit at Merriweather’s house and promptly took the LSU job. He locked in a commitment from offensive lineman Billy Schrauth.

When Jack Swarbrick hired Freeman, he kept the program in a stable position. Freeman rewarded the move by improving on that position. Through relentless recruiting, Freeman continues to haul in elite prospects to set Notre Dame up for a national championship run. By 247 Sports the Irish have the top-ranked 2023 class. By On3 consensus rankings, the Irish are ranked second. No matter which source you choose or what angle you take, there are few ways to spin it. Freeman has Notre Dame football back among the recruiting powerhouses. Mike Singer of Blue and Gold Illustrated spoke with The Observer about the biggest changes he’s seen in the Freeman era. 

“They’re aggressive. With Freeman, he’s traveling coast-to-coast. And if your head coach is recruiting at a high level and is recruiting daily, it trickles down to your assistants,” Singer said. “I don’t think Brian Kelly recruited all that hard. He was good when he recruited, but that was the issue — when he recruited. Freeman is a fantastic recruiter, and he loves recruiting.”

So with the highly-ranked 2023 class, where do the Irish stand? And what do Freeman and Co. need to continue to do in order to maintain their early momentum?

On Dante Moore and Carnell Tate

At one time, landing Moore and Tate was the dream. By On3 rankings, both are the fourth-ranked players at their position. With strong ties to each other, getting the duo in a package deal seemed feasible. This is becoming less likely, as Notre Dame seems to be falling behind in Tate’s recruitment. Singer commented on the situation.

“Notre Dame is not trending in a good direction for Carnell Tate … It’s Tennessee and Ohio State at one and two in some order, and Notre Dame at three.”

While being a finalist for a top-five receiver is certainly great, it’s going to take a late and very strong push for the Irish to land Tate. However, neither Tennessee or Ohio State are seemingly in the conversation for Moore. That’ll ease concerns that Moore could join Tate away from Notre Dame, but that’s not to say Moore’s recruitment is a done deal. He’s visiting LSU this weekend (with Tate, although LSU doesn’t appear to be a major player in that recruitment.)

“For Dante Moore, I’d be more concerned if he didn’t just have a two-day visit to Notre Dame,” Singer noted. “I think he’s going to stay in the Midwest, and looking at the schools in the Midwest, I think Notre Dame has done the best job with him.”

If it does indeed come down to the Midwest, it almost certainly will be between Notre Dame and Michigan. Michigan had the early edge on the in-state prospect, but they seem to have lost their grip on Moore. Oregon, Miami and LSU also are potential contenders in the recruitment. Moore will make his second visit of the calendar year to Oregon next weekend. 

While wide receiver has more options, the Irish will be in a bit of a sticky situation if they don’t land Moore. On3’s recruitment prediction tool currently gives the Irish a 69.9% chance of making that happen. If not, Notre Dame will need to quickly pivot, but this is their first true chance in a while at landing one of the elite quarterback prospects. 

So if not Tate…

If the Irish fall short on Tate, which is looking likely, they must find replacement options. They already locked in one of their top targets in Braylon James. James is ranked as the 19th-best wide receiver in the class by On3, and he’s Notre Dame’s top-ranked offensive recruit so far. The most exciting thing for Irish fans? James hasn’t come close to scratching his potential, according to Singer.

“He’s a raw player that will thrive at the college level when he gets better coaching,” Singer said. “He’s got really good tools, and I think he’s going to be a heck of a player.” 

But after landing just Merriweather at wide receiver in the class of 2022, the Irish need both quantity and quality out of this class. That makes the Blue and Gold game extremely important, with two elite wide receiver recruits visiting South Bend. 

“This weekend… Jaden Greathouse, Rodney Gallagher, this is their first time on campus. Two crucial receiver targets, top of the board guys,” Singer affirmed.

He also noted the Irish would continue to offer more receivers.

“Notre Dame is still going to expand the board. Chansi Stuckey is doing a great job on the recruiting trail,” he said.

Case in point, the Irish offered a four-star Florida receiver, Aidan Mizer, on Wednesday. However, this weekend, the focus is on Greathouse and Gallagher. Singer described Greathouse as a “Chase Claypool or Miles Boykin type of player out on the boundary.” He called Gallagher a “superb athlete from the slot.”  

The Irish face uphill battles from state programs for both recruits. For Greathouse, the Irish must battle the University of Texas for the Austin, Texas product. It’s a similar story for Gallagher, a Pennsylvania native who’s currently a heavy Penn State lean. On3 ranks Greathouse 21st and Gallagher 18th in the class of 2023 recruiting class.

On Defense, Blue and Gold Game Recruiting

Defense doesn’t feel like too much of a concern for the Irish. Freeman built a mammoth of a 2022 defensive class, and he’s shaping up to do it again. While it’s early to name any position an area of concern, cornerback Justyn Rhett’s recent decommitment raises some questions in the secondary.

“You lose Rhett. What does [safety] Peyton Bown end up doing…he’s visited Oklahoma two or three times since he committed,” Singer said. “Christian Gray is one of the most important targets on the entire board. He’s an elite cornerback with great traits on and off the field.”

On3 gives Notre Dame an 81% chance at landing Gray, a four-star corner and the tenth-ranked player at his position. That would certainly quell some concerns after losing Rhett. Locking in Bowen also would be nice. He’s the second-ranked player in the current 2023 recruiting class for the Irish. 

But right now, it’s about the Blue and Gold Game at Notre Dame. The recruiting has been rolling recently, and Freeman’s staff gets a chance to impress a few elite recruits this weekend. With less stress than a normal gameday weekend, Singer stressed the energy is a big draw for recruits. 

“It’s just a big party. There are going to be big names around. It’s a showcase. The spring game should have a pretty good atmosphere, the weather will be fantastic. It should be a really good weekend for Notre Dame.”

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About Aidan Thomas

A senior 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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