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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

Competitive Drive Priority in Notre Dame Recruiting

December 25, 2023

College football recruiting is a topic one can discuss for days and not touch on 80 percent of what goes on behind the scenes as programs look to bring in top talent.

Identifying talent is the first step in any recruiting process and that leads to evaluation. From there, a program can go in thousands of different directions as they prioritize what is important for their team or culture. 

One of the key pillars in the evaluation process for Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman is competitive drive. It’s takes effort to dig into each prospect to obtain a read on them and that’s exactly what this staff has done to find the right fit for the program. 

“Every position could be different but the one X-factor is competitiveness,” stated Freeman. You can find out how competitive a person is. There are different ways. You can talk to the coaches, watch their most important games.

“I’ll talk about Loghan Thomas, a guy who had a shoulder injury and didn’t have to play the state championship game and he said, ‘Listen, I’m gonna play with one arm.’ That’s what you're like, ‘OK, this guy is competitive.’” 

And yes, Notre Dame is also looking for that competitive drive off the field because players will be tested even more in the classroom than on the field in some cases. 

“If you're a competitor, you don’t want to get bad grades,” Freeman said. “That’s why I tell our guys, if you’re a competitor, you’re a competitor. You're a competitor in the classroom. You’re a competitor on the football field. Those are things that we look for when we say, ‘OK, this guy and this guy are very similar in athleticism, very similar in performance on the football field. How do we find out who's more competitive?

“You gotta ask those tough questions. You can ask a kid a tough question but to me, that’s the X-factor."

Yet, it’s not always about finding the ultimate competitor, especially in Transfer Portal recruiting. There’s a balance of finding kids who will compete while also not being selfish. When recruiting the Transfer Portal, it’s common to find players who are more focused on themselves as oftentimes it’s their final year of eligibility. 

The Transfer Portal window is also much shorter and at times coaches have hours to figure out if there is a fit or if they are being considered by the player instead of months or years in high school recruiting. 

“When you talk about portal kids, you’re talking about guys that are going to come into an established locker room and we can't bring in a selfish person,” Freeman explained. “This is a team. In high school recruiting, a lot of times it's just about you. It's about you. We love you. This is about you. Come to Notre Dame. When you come as a transfer portal guy, it’s about, ‘OK, you’re coming in to be a part of this team. You're already a college football player.’

“That to me is more important than anything, you gotta find ways to figure out who this person is as a teammate. There’s coaches. Somebody knows some coach who was around that player, it might be his former teammate, or something like that. But you gotta find out, Hey, what type of person is he and what are you bringing into your locker room?’”

Freeman also has made sure he and his staff are recruiting the families of each prospect. That means having discussions about every aspect of the program and stressing the academic opportunities at Notre Dame. 

“It's important to recruit families because young people - it's hard for them to see beyond the game of football,” stated Freeman. “I was that person at a time, all you can see is yourself making the NFL. You're not worried about life after football. What’s important as parents, myself included, is to say, ‘OK, son or daughter, athletics will be over. What place gives you a chance to maximize your athletic opportunities but also set you up for the rest of your life?’”

“I think it's important that you have adults that maybe have played or maybe have been through college sports and athletics to be able to say, ‘Hey, son or daughter, make sure you understand that this is more than just a football decision. We say 4 for 40, right? This is a decision that’s going to last for a long time.”

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