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Notre Dame Football

6 Thoughts on a Thursday

March 19, 2020

Les Miles isn’t known as an innovator on the field, but he was praised yesterday for a Virtual Junior Day idea at Kansas. It’s a smart thing for them to do and outside of the box thinking could help them gain an edge over others who aren’t as willing to do this kind of thing.

But if anyone was thinking that Notre Dame needs to be thinking ahead like this, ISD’s Matt Freeman pointed out that the staff has a set up with that they have used for years.

Normally you wouldn’t say Notre Dame has been ahead of the game in recruiting, but in this case they have been. They’ll need to continue to adjust to the current situation, though. Notre Dame has always been able to win over recruits and parents with on-campus visits.

With that not an option in the near future, they risk the chance of falling behind in some key recruitments. That site is great to have, but it doesn’t truly capture why someone would choose Notre Dame. They need to get more creative and show more of what makes the program and the school different. They need content like this one Fighting Irish Media made for National Signing Day, but have it created for recruits and their parents more so than fans.

That’s outstanding stuff, but when comparing that to this “In-Depth Look at Clemson Recruiting” video, you can see the difference between the two.

It’s not just that it’s longer. I wouldn’t say it was produced better either. It’s something that fans can enjoy watching, but no one who watched that wouldn’t think that was something that was specifically designed for recruits and parents to watch.

The only way to better sell Clemson would be for a kid to get on campus. Without that as a current option, Dabo Swinney and his staff still have something like that to push out to prospective recruiting targets.

In a time like this, Notre Dame needs something similar. Obviously the Irish coaching and personnel staff would want to make it unique to what Notre Dame does. It would help Notre Dame recruiting a lot if they could lean on Fighting Irish Media to help them accomplish it.

Whether they produce content that highlights recruiting operations, supporting students academically, strength and conditioning, or whatever it is they feel would help with recruits, it’s something that would be a good next step to help them.

It’s not realistic for them to produce something right now, but maybe the current situation forces them to think about it in the future. The program is doing a lot of great things right now that are worth showing off. And not just for recruits when they get to campus.

2. I have no idea if a return to the regular football/recruiting calendar this summer is even possible. It’s pretty much all up in the air at this point.

I do wonder if many recruits stick with a wait and see approach. If that happens and we don’t see chances to visit in the summer, then we could end up seeing the Stanford and Clemson games being big recruiting events.

Game days used to be big for Notre Dame, but with the pace of recruiting going faster than ever, they’ve sealed up a lot of their class before they get to October in recent years. That Clemson weekend, even with the time of year, may end up being the biggest game day recruiting weekend in a long time if things get pushed backed with the recruiting calendar.

3. Multi-position players in high school often have the most unlocked value in college. It’s not just that they get to focus on one position in college. It’s that they can get thrown into the “Athlete” category as a recruit and evaluators don’t always know what to do with them.

Looking at the 2016 cycle, it’s amazing how many 3-star prospects who were listed as athletes ended up being gems at the college level.

lil’Jordan Humphrey became a playmaker for Texas. JD Spielman has had three 800 yard receiving seasons for Nebraska. Reggie Floyd was a three-year starter and consistent Havoc producer for Virginia Tech.

Noah Fant became a first round pick out of Iowa as a tight end. Receiver Tyler Johnson was two-time All-Big Ten for Minnesota. Linebacker Malik Harrison was first team All-Big Ten at Ohio State. Jordan Mack was a multi-year starter at linebacker for Virginia (and a dynamic blitzer).

Cameron Dantzler developed into one of the top cornerbacks in the SEC at Mississippi State. Julian Blackmon made All-Pac 12 three times and was an All-American at safety for Utah. McKenzie Milton was one of the top quarterbacks in the nation at Central Florida before a devastating knee injury.

That’s a lot of 3-star prospects who were ranked a notch below several others who didn’t play nearly as well in college as they did. A lot of that had to do with going to the right program and being placed in the right position, which is something that happened with Jalen Elliott at Notre Dame. He was also in the 2016 cycle and the former high school quarterback ended up as a multi-year starter at safety.

In addition to Elliott, Notre Dame has found value with other composite 3-star athletes like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and TaRiq Bracy. We’ll see what will happen with Kendall Abdur-Rahman, Joe Wilkins, and Ramon Henderson going forward, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all if they developed into key contributors over the next couple of years.

There is plenty of 3-star value available in athletes during this 2021 cycle as well with Titus Mokiao-Atimalala‍ and Devin Kirkwood‍ being two intriguing options that the Irish have offered. I like Keagan Johnson‍ (Nebraska) too. They haven’t offered, but he’s a perfect example of someone who may not be the best fit at safety or receiver, but could become a great Rover.

I think we might see some 3-star athletes in the next wave of Notre Dame offers. They might not be exciting to fans because of their rankings, but a lot of them have a higher ceiling than lower ranked prospects who are projected at only one position.

4. I realize Ohio State and Notre Dame are very different schools and very different football programs, but what OSU is doing in recruiting as a team that isn’t located in the south is amazing. I thought it was going to slow down without Urban Meyer and it hasn’t one bit.

Them beating out programs for Ohio kids like Jack Sawyer‍, Jayden Ballard‍, Reid Carrico‍, and Devonta Smith‍ is normal. The way they can go in and take Donovan Jackson‍ out of Texas, Jakailin Johnson‍ out of Missouri, and Evan Pryor‍ out of North Carolina is not.

It’s like Notre Dame winning a battle for Deion Colzie‍, but with four times as many prospects and doing it year after year.

I don’t even know if Notre Dame can realistically do what Ohio State has done consistently, but they better come closer to them. The Buckeyes are on the schedule in 2022 and 2023.

5. I know NBC is worrying about much bigger things with their sports coverage these days (like not having the Olympics this summer), but they seem to be pretty aware that Chris Simms is a rising star.

That’s why it makes so much sense for him to replace Doug Flutie in the booth calling Notre Dame football games.

Some fans were really trying to get a movement going to get Brady Quinn in the booth on NBC, but even if you take out the fact that he is under contract with FOX, Simms is better in my opinion. I have nothing but respect for what Quinn accomplished at Notre Dame as a player, but he is way more on the hot take side of things as an analyst. Simms does his homework and communicates to the audience better.

If there is a Notre Dame fan that wants another year of Doug Flutie in the booth, I’ve never met him/her. I think Simms could be the guy to replace Cris Collinsworth one day at NBC. Before that, though, it would be nice to see him get a few years working Notre Dame games.

6. Yesterday was my birthday. I hope it’s my first and last one during a pandemic.

Days are uneasy for everyone. There is nothing normal about any of this. It’s frustrating and difficult, even for someone like me who is used to working from home.

It would have been nice to go out for dinner on my birthday, but I got to spend the day with my wife and son. Other than having cake, it wasn’t much of a celebration with so many other things on our minds.

Writing this column every week, even when football news is non-existent like it is now, is always comforting no matter if Notre Dame wins, loses, or when football seems like it is far away from coming back like it is at the moment.

The one thing I can guarantee during this time while we keep our distance from everyone and stay isolated is that I’ll continue to write 6 Thoughts every week. I hope to keep it interesting for readers of ISD while we patiently wait to find out what’s next.

Stay safe, everyone.

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