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Notre Dame Set To Sign Strong 2023 Class Regardless Of NSD Decisions

December 21, 2022
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Barring multiple last-minute surprises, the 2023 Notre Dame recruiting class will be defined by those who do sign with the Irish, not those who don’t.

Sure, there were some misses, but that’s the entire nature of recruiting.

Unlike the 2022 class, when there was no escaping the fact that Notre Dame had come up woefully short at a need position like wide receiver, in Marcus Freeman’s first full cycle as head coach, the Irish proved aggressive and agile in covering their bases.

One-time defensive end commit Keon Keeley‍ was a huge loss and five-star safety Peyton Bowen‍ would be as well. But while Bowen’s decision will be the story of National Signing Day, the story of Notre Dame’s 2023 class will last far longer than a single day.

The Irish are poised to sign at least 24 high school prospects. At this point, hanging onto Bowen – which isn’t yet out of the question – would almost represent a coup since so many already had him ticketed for Oklahoma.

Notre Dame is set to add 12 offensive prospects – a quarterback, a running back, a tight end, four receivers and five offensive linemen.

For the majority of the year, the story was quarterback.

The Irish essentially went all-in on Michigan signal-caller Dante Moore‍ for months – and with good reason. But as he continued to delay a public announcement, the staff eventually decide to part ways with Moore late in the spring.

Notre Damethen reached out to 2023 quarterback targets – old and new. If there was much internal scrambling, the Irish never let on. They didn’t panic and they certainly didn’t reach. Instead, they steadily went to work behind the scenes building relationships and ultimately flipping one of their top targets from the start in Kenny Minchey‍ from Pitt.  

It was certainly an eventful cycle for the position of running back, as Notre Dame parted ways with one-time commit Sedrick Irvin Jr.‍, flipped speedster Dylan Edwards‍ from Kansas State only to see him flip to Colorado and Deion Sanders. Longtime commit Jayden Limar‍ is also expected to depart the class and sign with Oregon on Wednesday.

But the Irish are set to sign the player who was their top target for months in St. Louis’ Jeremiyah Love‍. They won a true recruiting battle and then hung on to the player they viewed as “the must-get” all along.

The Irish identified, targeted and recruited top pass-catchers from beginning to end.

Tight end Cooper Flanagan‍ committed in September of 2021 and remained true despite the continued pursuit of some of the nation’s top programs and the change from John McNulty to Gerad Parker as Irish tight ends coach.

Braylon James‍ got first-year wide receivers coach Chansi Stuckey on the board in April and helped bring his friend and fellow Texan Jaden Greathouse‍, who committed a few months later. The Irish went out to California and beat elite schools for Rico Flores Jr.‍ and then came on late to flip Kaleb Smith‍ from Texas Tech in December.

As is his style, there was very little drama from Harry Hiestand’s haul. He started by reeling in commitments from a pair of North Carolina offensive linemen – Sam Pendleton‍ and Sullivan Absher‍ – in April and May respectively before adding Joe Otting‍ and Charles Jagusah‍ in June.

When Elijah Paige‍ decommitted and flipped to USC, Hiestand set his focus on Christopher Terek‍, who had committed to Wisconsin over the summer. The Irish never really pursued anybody else to fill that spot and that persistence paid off when Terek made the flip from the Badgers to the Irish toward the end of November.

If there is a void in this class it’s the lack of a true Vyper prospect, which the Irish hoped to have Keeley fill.

Either way, the Irish are set to sign three of their top defensive end targets in Brenan Vernon‍, Boubacar Traore‍ and Armel Mukam‍, an underrated prospect they were thrilled to flip from Stanford. Additionally, the Irish landed a talented, athletic defensive tackle in Devan Houstan‍ from Maryland by way of Canada.

Notre Dame scored its top linebacker target of the cycle back in November of 2021 with in-state star Drayk Bowen‍, who would go on to become one of the most diligent recruiters of the class. He’d be joined by Massachusetts’ Preston Zinter‍ in February and Louisiana’s Jaiden Ausberry‍ in August.

At cornerback, the Irish had Christian Gray‍ at the top of their board for since last summer. Notre Dame got Gray on campus repeatedly and ended up beating out LSU, Ohio State and USC among several others for the talented St. Louis native, who announced on July 4th.

Gray’s announcement came just days after Notre Dame landed Houston cornerback Micah Bell‍, one of the nation’s fastest players, over schools like Baylor, Houston, Texas, LSU, Michigan, Florida and Stanford.

The Irish kicked off the calendar year scoring a major commitment from five-star Texas safety Peyton Bowen‍. However, he continued to go through the process all of the way to the very hosting Oklahoma and Oregon in addition to Notre Dame for in-home visits just last week.

Four months before receiving Bowen’s commitment, Notre Dame landed Adon Shuler‍. The New Jersey safety was initially identified by Freeman when he was still at Cincinnati and the Irish worked quickly to offer him, get him on campus and lock him down last summer. Notre Dame had to hold off several other schools who tried to get in with offers after his pledge, but Shuler never wavered.

The Irish continued evaluating prospects down the stretch and ended up chasing Ohio safety Benjamin Minich‍ in July following a June workout. By August, Minich was announcing his commitment to the Irish over schools like Oklahoma, Stanford, Cincinnati and Kentucky.

And Notre Dame didn’t stop looking for gems into the fall and it believes it uncovered one in September with Virginia’s Brandyn Hillman‍. He went on an offer tear in late-September and while the Irish may not have been the very first offer of the blitz, make no mistake, they were in on Hillman as soon as any of the big boys.

He took an official visit in October and timing seemed to be the only thing that could prevent him from being Irish in the end. The two sides stayed in close communication and the Irish gave Hillman the space to compare schools like Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Kentucky to Notre Dame. In the end, he came to the conclusion everybody assumed he would and announced his commitment to the Irish on Dec. 7th, his mother’s birthday.

Hillman could help at a number of positions, including defensive back, receiver, running back and more.

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