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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

ISD Intel | Behind The Scenes Of Notre Dame Recruiting

February 24, 2023

It’s safe to say Payton Pierce‍ is a priority prospect for the Irish.

The 2024 Texas linebacker speaks with multiple Notre Dame staff members on a consistent basis, calling the communication “a lot” and “tremendous.”

Pierce says he speaks with Notre Dame daily and head coach Marcus Freeman every week.

Most days, defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Al Golden is the first person Pierce hears from.

The contact shows Pierce that he’s a priority for Notre Dame.

For the better part of a year now, the Irish have been making the point that the Lovejoy High School star is a Notre Dame kid.

“I’m their linebacker, that’s kind of their message,” he says.

Over the last several months, Pierce formed a tremendously strong bond with James Laurinaitis. Now that Laurinaitis is back at his alma mater as a graduate assistant, that’ll help Ohio State’s pursuit. But Pierce has been clear, it doesn’t change much about Notre Dame and he’s been building a bond with new Irish graduate assistant Max Bullough.

Pierce has already visited South Bend three times with a fourth scheduled to take in a spring practice on April 15th.

He’s looking forward to seeing the practice while getting a feel for the players, especially the freshman linebackers and the coaching staff.

He’ll be busy this spring with stops at Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Florida State on the docket as well as probable day trips to Texas, Texas A&M, TCU and Oklahoma.

After that swing, Pierce should be ready to narrow his list.

“I’ll have a real short, sharp list of the couple schools that I want,” he said.

Pierce isn’t sure if he’ll use all five of his allotted official visits, but expects he’ll take “at least three.”

IRISH HAVE SIGHTS ON ADDITIONAL TEXAS LB: While Notre Dame offered Pierce last summer, the Irish just joined the race for 2024 Texas linebacker Tyanthony Smith‍ last week.

Golden explained to the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder that the Irish had seen enough game and camp film to extend an offer, joining a list that already included schools like Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU and USC among others.

Smith understands what it means to be offered by Notre Dame, especially as a kid from Texas. He’s familiar with the Irish, especially players like Kyle Hamilton.

“I was just watching all those dudes, it was kind of exciting,” Smith told ISD. “So I know what they've kind of got down there too.”

Now, Smith will look to build the same types of relationships with the Notre Dame coaches that Pierce has. That could ultimately lead to a visit.

Smith has a couple visits set up for next month to Alabama and USC.

He’s in no rush to make a decision. Although he’s hoping to make his commitment sometime toward the beginning of his season, he knows he’d like to visit some more schools and won’t rush it.

BROWN TAKES NEXT STEP: Josiah Brown’s name has been on recruiting boards across the country for a long time. Earlier this week, the 2024 New York receiver let everybody know who remains on his board, when he announced a Top 10 of Notre Dame, Michigan, South Carolina, Nebraska, Miami, Duke, Syracuse, Penn State, Georgia and Rutgers.

Brown believes being able to focus on a finite number of schools will allow him to “block out some extra noise.”

It’s no surprise Notre Dame’s combination of athletics and academics along with Marcus Freeman helped the Irish make the list.

“I think the coaches over there, the atmosphere, the school, the tradition, the education,” Brown’s recruiting coordinator at Holy Trinity, Andre West, told ISD. “He comes from a strong mother-father background where they are heavily into education. With that school, it's second to none.”

Brown is planning to make visits to all of his favorites in the coming months before making a final decision.

Penn State, Georgia and South Carolina are among the other schools believed to seriously have Brown’s attention.

Meanwhile, the Irish have a solid board of targets that now includes former USC commit Jason Robinson.

2024 OL WORTH WATCHING: Last month, we published a story on Kyle Rakers‍, a 2024 Iowa offensive lineman who hadn’t heard much from the Irish to date, but was hoping to hear more.

A couple days after publication, he did hear more, when Irish assistant Brian Mason showed up at Dowling Catholic High School to check on him.

That pop-in led to some additional communication, which has since led to Rakers scheduling a visit to South Bend to check out a spring practice on March 31st.

Rakers’ offer sheet currently includes schools like Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, UNLV, Miami-Ohio and Northern Illinois.

When we spoke to Rakers at the National Combine in San Antonio, he made it clear Notre Dame would be a dream school of sorts and he reiterated that to ISD this week.

“That’s every boy’s dream I feel like,” he said. “That's one of the premier programs, one of the top schools in the nation. There's really nothing bad about it. Everything about Notre Dame would be great. It was almost surreal, seeing (Mason) at school and (later) talking to him and realizing the type of situation I could potentially be in. It was really surreal.”

Rakers is excited to see who Notre Dame will be hiring as its new offensive line coach and is looking forward to the chance to check out campus and the program next month.

He’ll be busy this spring with trips to Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Illinois, Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska and Iowa State expected in addition to Notre Dame.

Rakers is serious about building relationships and is looking for the best fit.

He’d like to make a decision before the start of his senior season, but isn’t going to rush it. At the same time, if an opportunity comes along that is too good to pass up, he’ll be ready to jump at it if it feels right.

2025 QB CLASS COULD BE STRONG: Notre Dame has already offered a trio of quarterbacks in the Class of 2025; Ohio’s Ryan Montgomery‍, Michigan’s Bryce Underwood‍ and Antwann Hill‍ of Georgia.

There are some other signal-callers in that class who could find themselves on the Notre Dame board eventually.

A couple weeks ago in this space, we highlighted 2025 Kentucky quarterback Cutter Boley‍, who is blowing up now. Boley’s offer sheet currently includes Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Oregon among others. We still strongly believe Boley is a prospect worth watching with regard to Notre Dame and a source close to Boley confirms he will be in South Bend on March 25th.

Grayson Wilson‍ is another 2025 signal-caller worth keeping an eye on. The Arkansas native only has a couple offers to date – Illinois and Central Arkansas – but he’s receiving true interest from several major programs, including Notre Dame.

Wilson speaks with Irish Director of Recruiting Chad Bowden on a weekly basis and is scheduled to be in South Bend for the Blue-Gold Game.

Wilson is also receiving interest from schools like Arkansas, Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas A&M, Kansas State and Missouri.

2025 Maryland quarterback Malik Washington‍ plays for the same Archbishop Spalding program as 2024 linebacker Keyshawn Flowers‍, who received an offer from the Irish this week. Washington has a dozen early offers from schools like Penn State, Maryland, Duke, West Virginia and Virginia Tech among others. Prior to his departure, Tommy Rees had preliminary discussions with the staff at Spalding about Washington.

The 2025 quarterback class looks strong and could end up being stronger than people realize now.

EMERGING 2025 LB A HUGE ND FAN: Christian Thatcher‍ could be on the verge of truly exploding.

The 2025 Nevada linebacker added offers from Oklahoma and Utah earlier this month to a list that already included schools like Arizona, Arizona State, Army, UNLV, Nevada, Colorado State and Southern Utah.

He’s received preliminary interest from Notre Dame and an invitation to camp in South Bend this summer.

Thatcher is tremendously excited about the opportunity to impress the Irish, but has to see if he can make a trip to campus work within his family’s schedule and budget.

“I don't want to sound cliché or anything, but everybody has seen the movie “Rudy” and everybody loves Rudy,” he told ISD this week. “You watch it and it's one of the most inspirational football movies there is.

“My dad has always liked watching Notre Dame and so we always watched it on TV and I've never been to Indiana or anything and I've never been to a game like that. But, they're awesome. What made me really kind of fall into one of my dream schools is when Coach Freeman was appointed as the head coach.”

If Thatcher does get the chance to camp in South Bend, he’s confident his abilities will impress the staff and potentially lead to an offer.

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