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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Signs Deep, Complete Class in 2023

December 23, 2022

Marcus Freeman just signed his first recruiting class as the head coach of Notre Dame. The collection of 24 players is getting criticized nationally because of what the Irish lost on signing day when five-star safety Peyton Bowen and four-star running back Jayden Limar flipped to Oklahoma and Oregon.

In total, Notre Dame had eight players decommit from the class, which includes five-star quarterback Dante Moore, who made a silent pledge to the Irish but never announced that decision publicly. 

A few of the decommitments came at the same position. Limar wasn’t the only running back to sign elsewhere. Dylan Edwards and Sedrick Irvin Jr. also left the class, with Edwards bolting just two weeks before signing day. Yet Notre Dame held on to the best of the bunch in Jeremiyah Love, who will join a loaded running room next fall. 

That’s the same across the board. With all the players the Irish lost, there really aren’t any holes in the 2023 class. In fact, Notre Dame could fill all 22 starting positions with blue-chip talent from this class alone.

“It’s the first time we've had a top-300 player at every position,” Freeman said. “It's a close group that's been committed, for the majority of the guys, before the season even started. The chance for these guys to stay together and to build that close bond has been vital for this class to stay together.”

Sure, Notre Dame would have preferred to add a pure vyper/edge rusher, but the Irish still signed four four-star defensive linemen in Brenan Vernon, Boubacar Traore, Devan Houstan and Armel Mukam.

Each stands at 6-foot-5 and possesses the flexibility to play multiple spots up front. 

The same could be said of the offensive line class. It may lack a bonafide left tackle, but the Irish still signed five talented prospects, and Charles Jagusah, Sullivan Absher and Sam Pendleton could each play tackle for Notre Dame at some point in the future. 

The Irish also loaded up at wide receiver with four players after signing just one in 2022.

“We addressed some positional needs, O-Line, D-Line, and wide receiver,” Freeman said. “We took five O-Linemen, four D-Linemen, and four wide receivers. And that was important to us, what we needed to address. 12 of those guys will be mid-years. And then as I said earlier, 24 signees from 13 states and Canada. Again, it just speaks to our global brand.”

Signing a complete class is important, especially in the transfer portal era. When a program doesn’t, it must deal with the aftermath for years.

In some ways, Notre Dame is still recovering the 2020 class, when the Irish signed just 17 prospects — one of which was a long snapper in Alex Peitsch. 

That class left noticeable holes on the roster with just two offensive linemen and a single linebacker in Jordan Botelho, who’s primarily played vyper in South Bend. The Irish also signed three wide receivers in that class but none still play the position. Jordan Johnson and Jay Brunelle transferred while Xavier Watts moved to safety as a sophomore. 

Now Tight end Michael Mayer, quarterback Drew Pyne and defensive back Caleb Offord have each left the program, so the Irish will have at most 12 seniors on the roster in 2023. That number could further dwindle if more players hit the portal. Of those who stay, a few might never make an impact on Saturdays for the Irish in four years.

In 2023, 22 of the 24 signees are four-star caliber prospects per ISD’s Jamie Uyeyama, and every member of the class is capable of contributing to the Irish down the line.

“At any position we're not trying to fill spots,” offensive coordinator Tommy Rees said. “We're not in the business of filling up so that we get a nice article written about us or filling out so that people can be excited. We want the right people, the right players.”

Of course, some won’t pan out and a few will inevitably transfer, but the Irish added enough depth and talent to sustain success. 

At the same time, defections could be limited, as the coaching staff focused on adding players with the mindset to compete at the highest level while also desiring the opportunities that come with a Notre Dame education. 

“They want to play for a global and national brand of football,” Freeman said. “They want to be first-round picks in the NFL Draft. But the other side of that is they understand they're going to have to really sacrifice in the classroom, they're going to have to study, they're going to have to do the difficult things that it takes to earn a Notre Dame education because they understand the value of that.”

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