Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2022

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

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36 FEBRUARY 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED FOOTBALL RECRUITING BY MIKE SINGER N otre Dame signed a 21-man class in December that was ranked No. 6 in the country per the On3 Consensus team recruiting rankings as of Jan. 4. Just like you'd find in a high school yearbook, Blue & Gold Illustrated has dished out several superlatives for the Fighting Irish signees. CLASS MVP: LB JAYLEN SNEED We are not talking valuable only in the sense of how good the player is. I'm looking at how much the staff valued the recruit, how critical he is to the team/class and how important he is to Notre Dame on a national scope. This year, Sneed is the best player in the class and his addition was important for the Irish in all of the aspects I laid out above. He's going to be a terrific locker room fit and someone who other players will gravitate toward. He has future first- round pick potential written all over him, and he's an A-plus individual. Picking Sneed for this isn't exactly a no-brainer because I really liked fellow linebacker recruit No- lan Ziegler for it, too, because of him being such an outstanding leader of the class. I couldn't have gone wrong with either choice. Quarterback Steve Angeli got some consideration as well because of his leadership qualities and how he helped recruit other players. BEST ATHLETE: TE ELI RARIDON I really debated this one between Raridon and offensive lineman Aamil Wagner. I love offensive linemen who are also great athletes, but Raridon is the choice here because of his freakish abilities in multiple sports. He was great on the football field this year, catch- ing 53 passes for 627 yards and 10 touchdowns, but it's his ability on the basketball court that gives him the edge. He was averaging 24.0 points per game during his senior basketball season before suffering an ACL tear, and he looked fantastic in clips of him we saw. Raridon is truly a specimen of an athlete, which is why he shot up in various rankings in the past couple months. ACL tears are obviously very seri- ous, but they're not as catastrophic as they once were. MOST UNDERRATED: CB JAYDEN BELLAMY I love this prediction. This was a no-brainer for me. I think his consensus three-star ranking is fair, but Bellamy will outplay that ranking and then some, in my opinion. My sources close to the Notre Dame football program say that he has an "it" factor and that he can be a special football player for the Fighting Irish. Bellamy is 5-11, 170 pounds so he's not the big- gest defensive back out there, but he has a unique feel for the game and is usually in the right place at the right time. He's got a quiet swagger to him and will surprise Notre Dame fans. BOOM OR BUST: DL AIDEN GOBAIRA Notre Dame will not bat 100 percent in this class. The late, great Lou Somogyi always spoke about the one-third rule in recruiting. One-third of a Notre Dame recruiting class will be multi-year starters and potential NFL Draft picks, one-third will be reserves and/or role players, and one-third will not make an impact due to injury, transfer or just not panning out. I believe Gobaira has the potential to "boom" and be in the first third that I mentioned, but he has some "bust" potential if his frame doesn't fill out. I believe it'll be the former, though. He's got the length, burst and high motor that defensive line coach Mike Elston covets in his players. MR. VERSATILE: LB NOLAN ZIEGLER This young man can play a lot of positions. Ziegler projected to play either rover or Will line- backer for Notre Dame, but at 6-3, 205 pounds I wouldn't rule out strong safety or some kind of hybrid H-back role. Ziegler is such a productive football player and a winner. He'll play plenty of special teams, too. This young man bleeds blue and gold and has the atti- tude to want to help Notre Dame in any way he can. INSTANT IMPACT: WR TOBIAS MERRIWEATHER BGI's Patrick Engel wrote an article on our web- site centered around five Notre Dame signees who can make an instant impact. Here was his reason- ing behind including Merriweather: "This pick is based on thin numbers as much as anything else, but that's not to discount Merri- weather's talent. He's a 6-4, 188-pound boundary receiver with a rare mix of physicality and yards- after-catch skill. His acceleration in the open field and change-of-pace ability stand out. "Combine the skill set with his standing as the lone receiver in the class and a potential exodus at the position, and the path for him to play in 2022 is easy to envision." That sums it up. Even though Merriweather isn't enrolling early at Notre Dame, he can still get on the field right away. HIDDEN GEM: OL ASHTON CRAIG I'm not sure Notre Dame really has a hidden gem in the class. Does Craig, an All-American recruit who held offers from Baylor, Cincinnati, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame and others even fit that? This essentially is another "most underrated" superlative. Craig is being overlooked because of the other talented offensive linemen in this class and Rivals only ranks him as a three-star recruit. However, he is a mauler on the inside. I believe he'll be a solid performer in a few years. ✦ Notre Dame's Class Of 2022 Superlatives Hilton Head (S.C.) High's Jaylen Sneed, the nation's No. 3 linebacker and No. 34 overall player per the On3 Consensus, is the Fighting Irish's class MVP. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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