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Notre Dame Football

6 Thoughts on a Thursday

June 23, 2022

Phil Steele’s annual college football Bible is out (in digital form) and it’s not a surprise that he has Notre Dame’s defensive line and linebackers both in the top-10 for their position rankings. It was a bit surprising to see him rank the Irish defensive backfield fifth overall, but he did based on the experience level of the unit and the projections for Cam Hart and Brandon Joseph.

It’s safe to say that the Irish are going to have a really good defense again this season and I believe it will be led by the front seven. Not only do they have some high-level potential, but they also have depth.

That’s what is missing from the secondary. They may ultimately prove that they can match the front seven, but a lot will depend on some young talent developing this fall.

It’s no secret that Notre Dame has recruited better on the defensive line and at linebacker than they have in the secondary in recent years. They aren’t exactly getting worse recruiting those spots in 2023 and 2024 either. The staff is trying to do the same thing in the secondary and they are on their way to doing so with Peyton Bowen‍ and Adon Shuler‍ at safety in the fold already and the Irish in a strong position to land some quality corners to kick off July as well.

There’s a chance that they might actually turn some 4-star corner prospects away, which isn’t something that has happened often with Notre Dame at that position.

I’m of the opinion that corners are in the same category as pass rushers: you can never have enough good ones on your roster. I would be pushing to not turn down any blue-chip recruits at the position in most circumstances.

With Notre Dame’s current situation at corner, there is no chance I wouldn’t take at least three in the class if it’s three high-level prospects. Notre Dame has a chance to land those types of players and it just so happens that a team on their schedule in 2023, Ohio State, is loading up at the receiver position. It’s not just this class where they just earned commitments from the ISD Fab 50 like Carnell Tate‍ and Brandon Inniss‍. They keep stacking the position in every class.

And Notre Dame isn’t going to only have to play them this year and again the next season. Chances are high that they could face them in a College Football Playoff scenario down the road as well.

The Irish didn’t have the corners to match Clemson’s receivers in 2018, especially after Julian Love went out of the game. They also didn’t have anything close that could match Alabama in 2020. If they want to match up with offenses like that in the future, they need more talent and depth at corner.

Landing Christian Gray‍ and Micah Bell‍ would be significant for them, especially following up the Jaden Mickey, Jayden Bellamy, and Benjamin Morrison in the last cycle. If they can add a Jasiah Wagoner‍ or Micah Tease‍ to that mix as well, that would be even better knowing what they’re going to have to face from the receiver position in the future.

2. I was thinking about this the other day as the questions have been asked about whether or not Notre Dame should take six offensive linemen in this class or three corners: has there ever been a time where they ended up regretting taking a player when it looked like things might be full in terms of scholarships?

Brian Kelly had to be coy about the situation with Marist Liufau and JD Bertrand’s scholarships on signing day back in 2019 because it wasn’t a sure thing that they would be under 85 by the time they reported to campus.

It all worked out.

Thankfully for them it wasn’t an issue because let’s say they ended up telling Liufau and Bertrand that the boat was full. The linebacker situation would have been a much worse situation the last couple of years and it definitely wouldn’t have been good for this season.

Neither two was considered anywhere close to “can’t-miss”, but no one would be surprised if Liufau was the best linebacker on the team in 2022. Bertrand might start beside him and had 101 tackles last fall.

I’d say the decision to take them worked out pretty well for Notre Dame.

3. We’ll see if Notre Dame ends up closing on Jeremiyah Love‍ or not this cycle, but ISD’s Christian McCollum’s reporting that the Irish have pitched him on a Deebo Samuel type of role makes me want Love to be Irish just so I can see it.

For those unfamiliar, Samuel was an absolute monster for the San Francisco 49ers last season while being utilized in a hybrid receiver/running back role. He averaged 18.2 yards per reception, 6.2 yards per carry, scored 14 total touchdowns, and had 1,770 yards from scrimmage. He lined up everywhere for them and they found him a way to get touches wherever he was situated.

The best Notre Dame comparison for Love would be CJ Prosise, a player who I only wish they had figured out ways to better utilize him earlier in his career.

4. So much of the focus when fall camp starts will be on Tyler Buchner. His development and him looking like the no doubt QB1 for the Irish is what will ultimately determine the expectations for not just the offense, but largely the team as a whole. It’s inevitable when he plays the most important position on the field.

I think a lot of people will want to see him have success making throws from the pocket based on what he didn’t show last season in his limited role. It makes a lot of sense.

One other thing we didn’t see from him last season was a feel for the rush. We know he can run. We know he’s a great athlete. But it’s knowing when to escape the rush and when to hang in to make a throw that we haven’t seen from him in college. We really haven't even seen that in practices yet because we haven’t seen many practices with him.

I also want to see how much Tommy Rees gets him throwing on designed rollouts because we did get to see him make some very impressive throws on the move. His ability to do that could really open up the offense this fall.

5. I didn’t want to let this week go by without saying what a phenomenal job both Matt Freeman and JOHN BRICE did covering the Notre Dame baseball team.

Obviously I am biased, but I don’t believe anyone has covered the team as well as they did.

I’m mostly just glad they got to cover a team that did so well.

Not just for their sake, but for everyone who follows the baseball team, I really hope that Notre Dame finds a way to keep Link Jarrett. If he stays then I feel like this might just be the start of something special for that program. If he leaves, then I sincerely hope they find someone who can build on what Jarrett has accomplished. It won’t be easy.

6. Get ready.

It’s almost time for an avalanche of commitments from 2023 recruits at the start of July. With official visits wrapping up and several players wanting to make decisions before their senior seasons, everyone is going to be bombarded with commitment announcements.

As of right now there are 20 blue-chip recruits (4 or 5-stars) who are scheduled to commit next month. That number is sure to grow as there will be others who decide to make their declarations known as well.

We’ll see where things go with many of them, but I wonder if we may see a few more surprises than we’re used to. There’s already been a few programs showing up with commitments who aren’t normally there landing players in the ISD Fab 50.

Louisville has two commits in the Fab 50, running back Rueben Owens‍ and wide receiver DeAndre Moore‍. Owens was projected to stay in-state and go to a program in Texas. Moore was previously committed to Oklahoma. West Virginia beat out Notre Dame and Penn State for another Fab 50 player, athlete Rodney Gallagher‍. It’s been a while since Tennessee has been recruiting with the big dogs, but they landed a commitment from one of the top quarterbacks in the ‘23 class, Nicholaus Iamaleava‍.

Louisville has five blue-chips commits at the moment. They signed five in the last two classes combined and aren’t exactly a hot program on the field (10-14 over the last two seasons). It’s pretty obvious what’s going on with them and NIL. It’s a big part of why they are seeing an uptick with their recruiting.

They aren’t the only middle tier Power 5 program making a jump. Eight of Michigan State’s 11 commits are ranked as blue-chips. They signed six in the previous two classes. Texas Tech has three blue-chips committed to them and that might not seem like a lot, but when you factor in that they only signed three in the previous three classes, it’s a pretty big deal for them.

The news of Louisville landing Owens understandably caused a reaction from many college football writers, including The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel, who tweeted this.

He implied in a later tweet that Owens committing to Louisville, Tennessee landing Iamaleava, and Deion Sanders and Jackson State landing Travis Hunter‍ in the last cycle pointed to NIL introducing more parity in college football.

More teams being in the mix for these types of players because of NIL money is probably a good thing for the sport. I won’t disagree with that, but to call it cherry picking to single out a few examples would be kind. It just doesn’t fit with what is actually going on at the moment.

Look at the top of the recruiting rankings and there are several of the usual suspects at the top.

Notre Dame is there with Ohio State, who just landed a pair of 5-star wide receivers. Penn State and Clemson, who almost doubled their blue-chip commitments in a single week, are the two teams right behind them. Then there’s Georgia who is seventh and climbing. USC is right up there in the top-10 and they are likely to finish back in the top-10 again by the end of the cycle.

If you go down further, you’ll find that Texas, Texas A&M, Oregon, Alabama, and LSU aren’t near the top currently, but the total commitments for those schools is 28. 24 of them are ranked as 4 or 5-star recruits.

Sure, a few more middle tier Power 5 programs will make some noise and steal a top recruit or two or three because of NIL. Any suggestion that this is an indication that there will be more parity in recruiting is premature at best and flat out wrong currently.

By the end of July, we know Notre Dame’s class is going to be even more impressive than it is now. It’s a fair assumption that it will be the same for most of the top tier recruiting programs as well. Men’s Notre Dame UA Freedom Polo Coaching tiers Chip Kelly

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