Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2022*

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 43 of 63

44 JANUARY 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED FOOTBALL RECRUITING BY PATRICK ENGEL M ake no mistake, Notre Dame's 2022 recruiting class is a positive, even if it took some signing day hits. It stood as Rivals' No. 7 group as of Dec. 15, the program's highest ranking since finishing third in 2013. It has 15 four- or five-star signees, the most the Irish have signed since that 2013 cycle. Only two of their classes since Rivals began its team rankings in 2002 have ended in a higher spot. Add in an 11th-hour coaching change that threatened to implode it, and it's impressive work. Marcus Freeman's fin- gerprints are all over it. Freeman arrived in January 2021 as Notre Dame's defensive coordinator and instantly pushed the envelope. He chased elite recruits. He landed a few of them. All told, Notre Dame has eight four-star defensive signees. Three of Notre Dame's four highest-ranked 2022 recruits play defense. Then, as the newly minted head coach, Freeman kept defections from the class to three. Not 90 minutes after he was introduced, he embarked on a 14-state, 8,000-mile, five-day trek to visit most of the commits and project stability. "Our staff did an unbelievable job," Freeman said on Dec. 15. "What you learned about this class is a majority of these kids, they were committed to Notre Dame. It wasn't about one person or who was the head coach. It was about Notre Dame." And yet, despite its ranking, the Irish's 2022 haul feels like it could be Freeman's prelude rather than his pièce de résistance. Freeman's impact on 2022 as the head coach was retention. In 2023 and beyond, though, he's the primary architect who isn't interested in point- ing out the ceiling. The way Freeman's assistants speak about a recruiting operation with him in charge, it's hard not to think about classes like 2022 being closer to the floor than the maximum possibility. That falls in line with Freeman's stated objective of not only maintaining what Notre Dame became in Brian Kelly's last five years, but taking it up the final remaining steps. When thinking about how to do so, pushing recruiting upward immediately comes to mind. "You want to be in these battles and have a really good chance at the end," said Mike Elston, Notre Dame's defen- sive line coach and recruiting coordina- tor. "We knew were in a couple of them. We should be in more of them. You have to win them. It's just a higher mark. "But that's not diminishing this class at all. We have a really good class. We're all excited about it." They're just as excited about the start to Hilton Head (S.C.) High linebacker Jaylen Sneed is the highest-ranked prospect among the 21 that inked with the Fighting Irish during the early signing period, with On3 Consensus rankings listing him as the No. 3 linebacker and No. 34 overall recruit in the 2022 cycle. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM BUILDING BLOCK Notre Dame's 2022 class is a success, but the Irish feel they can achieve even more with Marcus Freeman leading their recruiting efforts

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - January 2022*