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Notre Dame Football

Early Enrollee Notebook

March 9, 2023

Notre Dame has now rolled out each of its early enrollees to speak with the media over the last month. 

On Wednesday, the newest offensive additions spoke while defensive players Drayk Bowen and Adon Shuler also stepped up to the podium as they were unavailable in February. 

We’ll take a look at a few quotes that stood out as they prepare for their first spring ball at Notre Dame, which starts March 22nd. 

Receiver Rico Flores Jr. is on the mend after a talus fracture during his senior season (or before). The California native is running routes and believes he’ll be 100 percent for the first practice of the spring. 

"I’m doing real good,” said Flores. “I always felt I was ahead of my recovery. After I had a cast on for a month. Got it on in November, I got it off in December and then I came here in January. They knew about it right when it happened. So I was prepared to come and go to recovery every day. Make sure I was getting treated right."

Braylon James committed to Notre Dame last spring and remained firm in his commitment despite late attention from in-state programs. The Texas native arrived thinking he’d be in an offense ran by Tommy Rees, but life changed quick as Alabama came calling for Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator. 

Despite the changes to the staff, James couldn’t be happier with his decision to sign with the Irish. 

“I feel like nothing really changed - just the energy this place has is just so crazy,” James explained. “It's like, when Tommy left it was like, ‘Alright, what's next?’ We were just kind of put the foot on the gas. We were still ready to work. Everybody still came in, prepared 100%.

“We're all focused on the same mission. We all want to reach that same goal, so it really didn't matter who was leading us in that moment. I want to say yeah, like, just by feeding off everybody else's energy, that just kind of shifted my demeanor. I was just excited to see what was happening next. So that didn't really phase anybody.” 

Receiver Jaden Greathouse also enrolled early and like Flores, the Texas native entered his collegiate career coming off some surgery. Greathouse had a hamstring issue in the state playoffs along with a meniscus issue that he got cleaned up prior to arriving on campus and neither will hold him back this spring. 

“I’ve been 100 percent since the first day I got here working out the whole time,” stated Greathouse. “I’m ready to go.” 

The man tasked with throwing the receivers the ball will be quarterback Kenny Minchey who flipped late in the recruiting cycle from Pitt. Minchey battled a dislocated shoulder for most of his senior year and missed the All-American Bowl due to the injury, but it shouldn’t hold him back too much this spring as he started throwing in February and he anticipates he’s 95 percent heading to spring practice. 

“I dislocated my right shoulder in week four so I sat out for seven weeks,” explained Minchey. “I played in the first playoff game and I played fine. Then I was really sore so I couldn’t play the next week and we ended up getting put out. I had an MRI and the doctors said everything was cool. I just had a bone contusion, like a bone bruise. That’s where I get my pain from.

“I rested and rehabbed. I’ve already gotten back in the throwing phase, just doing what I’m doing now. Just building back up and reconditioning my arm. I really got back into throwing last month, like two or three times a week.” 

In sticking with the injury updates, safety Adon Shuler had shoulder surgery to clean up an AC joint issue in February. The good news is he got out of his sling on Wednesday before interviews, but he’ll be very limited this spring as he recovers. 

"I figured it out when I got here with the trainers and coaches,” stated Shuler. “They felt it was best I get it done now, so I can still be healthy and play the season.

"I'll be practicing, but non-contact stuff."

Offensive lineman Sam Pendleton probably went through the most change of all the early enrollees as he saw his offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and offensive line GA leave the program in the last month. 

The North Carolina native admits it wasn’t easy, but it also gave him comfort in knowing he picked the school for the school. The positive of the changes is Pendleton is very familiar with Joe Rudolph as Virginia Tech was involved in his recruitment last year. 

“Especially getting here and right away and you have a coaching change, it definitely takes a toll on you,” Pendleton said. “But it's nothing that's going to defer me away from this place. I didn't come here to play for a coach. I came to play for Notre Dame, and I still stand by that today.

“Coach Hiestand is a great coach. I really love what he did with recruiting me the way he did last year. It's not like he's gone forever. We still talk every once a while, but even as a mentor, he's been great. Coach Watt, was great as well. That combination, him leaving a little bit later, was really good to really kind of, give a cushion to the blow.

“Coach Rudolph is doing a great job here. He recruited me to Virginia Tech in my recruiting process, and it's just like, we just picked up right where we left off and he's just been fantastic. Even with coaching, going through drills. He's just very intentional about what he does. He's always open. It's been a transition, but I've enjoyed it.”

Linebacker Drayk Bowen is the busiest early enrollee in the country as he is balancing baseball, class and football. The Indiana native has welcomed the challenge as well as changing his body over the last two months. 

Bowen has lost five pounds of bad weight and gained four pounds of muscle during his time with Matt Balis and it’s a goal the former four-star prospect wanted to do when he arrived early. 

“I knew it was going to happen because of the way they make us eat,” said Bowen. “At home, we don’t have the same type of supplements and foods that they have here. It was a lot easier to find better options for eating and snacking and stuff like that than it was at home. You can’t just go grab a protein shake whenever you want at home. You have to go to the store or bring a bunch back to your house. It’s little things like that you don’t really think about that actually make a big difference.”

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