Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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50 PRESEASON 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED FOOTBALL RECRUITING BY MIKE SINGER W ith the addition of spring and summer official visits a couple years back, that time period became one of the busiest parts of the re- cruiting calendar, especially when it comes to landing new commitments. However, visits have been can- celed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Official visits were supposed to start in April, but not a single prospect in the 2021 class has been able to take one after the NCAA-mandated recruiting dead period that is currently set to run through the end of September. Most pundits believe the dead period will run through the rest of the calendar year. July and August are normally very slow times in recruiting, but normal is not the word anyone should use to describe today's climate. These past two months have been very busy for Notre Dame, with the Irish landing seven new commitments in the 2021 class plus three 2022 pledges. As of Aug. 24, Notre Dame had 18 commitments in a 2021 class that was ranked No. 11 in the country by Rivals, directly ahead of North Caro- lina, Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma, Lou- isville and Wisconsin, respectively. The Notre Dame staff would like to add a couple more important pieces to that group in an effort to finish the cycle strong. Defensive back and wide receiver are the two positions to keep a close eye on. Atlanta Pace Academy's Jayden Thomas, who Rivals ranks as the nation's No. 23 wide receiver and No. 131 overall prospect, has been an Irish target for nearly a year. Thomas is also an excellent baseball player who Irish coach Link Jarrett would like on the diamond. Thomas has a top five of Arkansas, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame and Penn State. The Irish are considered the team to beat at this point. Notre Dame is also in strong pur- suit of Baltimore Mount St. Joseph wide receiver Dont'e Thornton Jr., who is considered an Oregon lean but has high interest in the Irish. Rivals views Thornton as the No. 9 wide receiver and No. 53 overall prospect in the land. Athens (Ga.) Academy's Deion Colzie, the No. 11 wide receiver and No. 73 overall recruit nationally, is a former Fighting Irish pledge that the Notre Dame staff is continuing to pursue. All three of these wide receiver prospects are in no rush to make a decision, and the Irish would be thrilled to take one or two of them. In the defensive backfield, Ewa Beach (Hawai'i) Campbell's Titus Mokiao-Atimalala is a major priority for the staff. Ranked as the nation's No. 49 wide receiver, Mokiao-Ati- malala could play offense at the next level, but Notre Dame loves his abil- ity as a safety. Due to the dead period, Mokiao- Atimalala is in a tough spot. He has not been able to visit Notre Dame and other schools, and he has only been to the United States mainland a few times in his life. Los Angeles Loyola's Ceyair Wright, whom Rivals ranks as the No. 3 cornerback and No. 100 overall prospect nationally, and Alpharetta (Ga.) High's Jaden Slocum, the No. 20 safety in America per Rivals, are also priorities for Notre Dame. On Aug. 16, Notre Dame landed a commitment from Los Gatos (Calif.) High's Will Schweitzer, the No. 26 weak-side defensive end in the coun- try, flipping him from his previous Nebraska verbal pledge. Schweitzer gave the Irish four defensive line commitments in the 2021 class. However, the Irish are ex- pected to lose a pledge from Mans- field (Texas) Legacy's David Abiara, the No. 22 strong-side defensive end in the country. Abiara committed to Notre Dame in March, but has been looking at Oklahoma, SMU and Texas for months. The fall should be more quiet than the summer was for Notre Dame's 2021 class because there are only two to three spots left, but it could be just as impactful with the talent left on the board. ✦ Notre Dame is considered the school to beat for Atlanta Pace Academy two-sport standout Jayden Thomas, who is listed as the No. 23 wide receiver and No. 131 overall prospect nationally by Rivals. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM Notre Dame Is Looking To Finish Its 2021 Class Strong NOTRE DAME OFFERS FIRST TWO 2022 QUARTERBACKS Months ago, dozens of schools had already offered quarterback prospects in the 2023 class, but Notre Dame hadn't even tendered its first signal-callers in the 2022 cycle. The spring evaluation period and summer camps were going to be huge for offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees to make in-person judgments of recruits. That opportunity was wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Notre Dame offered its first two — and potentially its only two — quarterbacks in the 2022 class on Aug. 17. The recipients of the tenders were Owensboro (Ky.) High's Gavin Wimsatt, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and No. 50 overall prospect in the land per Rivals, and Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic's Steven Angeli, Rivals' No. 12 pro-style passer in America. The two four-star prospects are both high on the Fighting Irish, but Angeli is already considered a Notre Dame lean with his bloodlines. "I have Notre Dame heritage," Angeli said. "My great uncle Pete Berezney played offensive line there in the early 1940s and won a national championship [1943]. Right away [after receiving the offer], my mom was overjoyed with emotions. She talked to Coach Rees about everything that Notre Dame means to our family and the relationships and connections we have with Notre Dame." — Mike Singer

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