Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2022

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM MARCH 2022 47 2022 FOOTBALL RECRUITING ISSUE Power: "Notre Dame is off to a great start in the 2023 cycle. I'm particularly bullish on Keon Keeley, who we rank as a top-five prospect nationally. He looks like the nation's top pass rusher at this stage. "The Irish will have to fight to hold onto him. I'm also a fan of Peyton Bow- en's game. He's one of the better safe- ties nationally. Landing a blue-chip prospect of his ilk out of Texas is a big win for Freeman." Simmons: "Freeman and Notre Dame are off to a great start in 2023. Keeley is the name in this class, and Freeman is going to have to work hard to hold others off, but the Irish are on top early. "Drayk Bowen is a great player and leader for this class. I like what they are doing early on in the defensive back- field, too. They are off to a strong start." Singer: "It's a fantastic group — Notre Dame has hit on its top targets thus far. It will obviously be key for the Irish to continue landing top-of-the- board prospects, while also fending off other programs that want to flip the Notre Dame commits." Spiegelman: "As impressive as the Irish's 2022 haul was, the 2023 class has a shot at being equally as good. Freeman is off to a fast start with eight blue-chippers, including electric edge player Keeley and playmaking safety Bowen." ✦ Tom Lemming Q&A To get more insight on Notre Dame's class, plus Irish recruiting as a whole, Blue & Gold Illustrated spoke with CBS Sports national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, who has been a premier source in college football recruiting for more than 40 years. BGI: What are your general impressions of the class? Lemming: "They've had trouble the past couple decades having really good back-to-back classes. They'd have one great class, but the next one wouldn't be so good. The inconsistency in recruiting has been a factor in keeping Notre Dame from winning a national title. "They're never going to match Alabama, but they'll have enough players to win a title if they can get an impact quarterback, which I'm not sure they have yet. "Hopefully Tyler Buchner or one of these guys can come through, but recruit- ing-wise, that's the one thing they're lacking — a lights-out, five-star quarterback. "Steve Angeli is good; I've known him since his freshman year. I like Steve. He's a proficient quarterback who can get the job done." BGI: What kind of impact will Marcus Freeman's hire as head coach have on recruiting? Lemming: "He's a five-star recruiter. It's a great impact, and he's a great defensive coach. He gets it in recruiting, and not all guys get it. Or some guys don't have the work ethic to call kids every single day, which is what coaches have to do nowadays. "It takes a lot of effort, time and personality, and Marcus has that in him. He's young, identifies with the kids and has the work ethic to land several — not just one — five-star players every couple years." BGI: Freeman is a defensive guy, young and has tons of energy as a re- cruiter. What are the negatives? Lemming: "The positives are that. The only negative is that he hasn't been a head coach before, so we'll see how he reacts during in-game situations. He's going to have to rely a lot on having great offensive coaches — guys who know how to recruit impact players. "Jeff Quinn has brought in some five-star offensive linemen; they've set with that offensive line. They've set at tight end with Michael Mayer. Now, they need to do it at wide receiver, quarterback and running back, and they'll be on their way to a national title. "Defensively, you don't have to worry about that anymore." BGI: As a head coach, Freeman seems to be more involved in recruiting than Kelly was. How will that work for him? Lemming: "I think that will have an impact. He's carrying the mantle as the leader of Notre Dame. He will need help with Tommy Rees and the new coaches to land the impact guys. It can't just be Marcus recruiting them. "Those coaches are the ones who the players will be involved with more on a daily basis when they play at Notre Dame." BGI: Who are your favorite recruits of Notre Dame's 2022 recruiting class? Lemming: "I love all the linebackers. It's their best linebacker haul in at least 30 years. It's a tremendous group. All four of them are at least four-stars recruits. "Jaylen Sneed took his game to a different level this year. The two kids from Michigan — Joshua Burnham and Nolan Ziegler — can both play. Ziegler reminds me some of Harrison Smith. They're just impact players. Burnham reminds me of Peter Werner, who committed to Notre Dame before signing with Ohio State. "I think cornerback Jaden Mickey had a terrific senior year. Defensive end Aiden Gobaira took his game to a different level, too. Defensively, they're set. We know that every year, they're going to bring in great players on defense. "Offensive line-wise, former offensive line coach Jeff Quinn did a fabulous job. He recruited better than Harry [Hiestand] and a lot of the other guys did. Getting Blake Fisher, Rocco Spindler and Joe Alt last year, and the ones he landed this year — Joey Tanona, Billy Schrauth and Aamil Wagner — he was an A-plus recruiter. You have to give him his due. A lot of people are going to forget about him, but he's a legit coach. "They've suffered because they don't have a speed receiver. They have big, strong-handed but not swift receivers. Tobias Merriweather can really run, but they need another Will Fuller or Tim Brown-type receiver. Alabama and LSU get one every year; Notre Dame doesn't." BGI: What do you think about the tight ends Notre Dame landed in Eli Raridon and Holden Staes? Lemming: "Raridon is a great athlete. He reminds me a lot of Tyler Eifert; they're almost identical coming out of high school. If he can stay healthy [following his ACL tear as a senior], he'll be an NFL tight end. "Holden Staes is more of a physical player, but he's also very athletic. I re- ally like him a lot, too. "Notre Dame never has to worry at tight end. They're Tight End U. right now. Tight ends seek them out." BGI: What are your thoughts on Notre Dame's 2023 class so far? Lemming: "They're off to a great start. It's defensive-oriented so far; I'd like to see impact offensive players. I think their 2023 offensive class will be better than their 2022 group with Marcus running the whole show. "They have a shot at No. 1 next year if they continue on this way. It comes down to two years of hard recruiting. If they continue to recruit them hard this year, Notre Dame could have a group that rivals the No. 1 class in the country." — Mike Singer Merrillville (Ind.) Andrean's Drayk Bowen, the No. 4 linebacker and No. 46 overall recruit nationally according to the On3 Consensus, is a key early piece to Notre Dame's 2023 class. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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