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Notre Dame Football

Rees Raves on Notre Dame Rookies

July 21, 2021

The group almost was entirely sight unseen, at least for its final nine to 15 months before arriving at the University of Notre Dame.

Still, Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees sees a steady group with what he believes is top-end potential as members of Notre Dame's 2021 signing class, all of whom now are on campus.

“I think it's a very mature group, a group that knows how to work and how to come in and really put their head down and focus on what's important,” Rees said via Zoom. “I know Coach (Matt) Balis has been very pleased with their progress and where they're at.

“I think when you look at it kind of individually, you see a group that has a chance to be pretty dang good.”

Rees understands that's a somewhat anomalous perspective, considering the COVID-19 pandemic's shut-down of society for many months in 2020 and with it the entirety of NCAA recruiting from mid-March until earlier this year.

“It's odd that you're going to feel that positive about a class that you didn't get to meet a whole bunch of [due to the COVID-19 pandemic protocols and restrictions],” said Rees, Notre Dame's second-year offensive coordinator whose first unit ranked in the top 10 nationally in first downs, third-down conversion and time of possession.

Almost position-by-position on the offensive side of the ball, Rees outlines a future nucleus he believes can be elite.

“You look at the wideouts, you see size, you see athleticism, you see speed,” Rees outlined.

“You know, the running backs (Logan Diggs and Audric Estime) are both explosive. Really explosive. A kid like Diggs is someone that's maybe got a little work to go, but his ceiling is pretty dang high.

“A kid like (Joe) Alt comes in, who you took as a development when he was 250. He's now right near 300 pounds and still moves like he played tight end. You feel really good about that.

“And then you pair him with the guys who were already here (Blake Fisher, Rocco Spindler, Caleb Johnson and Pat Coogan comprise the '21 OL signing group with Alt), and you forget that those early guys are still freshmen. So you put that whole class together and it's like, 'All right. We got a chance to have a pretty good class here.'”

Three skill players in that consensus top-10 signing haul continue to elicit whispers of their tantalizing potential: quarterback Tyler Buchner, Estime and wideout Lorenzo Styles Jr.

“I think that that whole group you just named has a very mature attitude to them,” Rees said. “You know they are guys that work, know how to work. They're pretty singularly focused in terms of what's important and how do I be successful. Tyler and Zo, it's (saying), 'OK, how do we make a jump from where we were in spring and just kind of figuring everything out to now where you go through a summer, you kind of feel like you're a part of everything now, you know how to operate. What kind of jumps can we make? How can we get technically better in our positions.

“For Audric, look, he looks great. Moves well. Runs well. Now it's going to be OK, when we get into football, how well can we pick it up? How well can we play when the pads come on? Then it's going to be can we balance everything when school picks up?

“Whereas the guys that are early, they've learned that. We've seen them handle that. So it's an exciting time, especially for the freshman class.”

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