Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2022

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

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2022 FOOTBALL RECRUITING ISSUE with countless hours of hard work in the weight room alongside longtime fam- ily friend and trainer Steve Giblin, and Raridon's recruiting stock, confidence and performance all began to steadily climb. In February 2021, a scholarship offer finally came through from Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees. Nickel eventually decommitted and flipped to Michigan State, while at the same time Raridon was working and playing his way into becoming one of the highest-rated Irish offensive players in this class. Eli was already a standout high school athlete and basketball player — 30-point and double-digit rebound games were not unusual — by the time his senior high school football season began in the fall of 2021. He had de- veloped into an impressive 6-foot-6, 225-pound physical specimen, with a skill set typically reserved for much smaller athletes, an insatiable desire to put in all the necessary work to improve and a lanky body frame that college strength coaches dream about. "Basketball just really helps you with coordination and athleticism," Eli said of his two-sport pursuits. "Being in the gym every day really brought my verti- cal up, and it helped me with speed and all of the above. "Basketball for sure helped me on the football field, no doubt about that." Putting school over coaching staff during his college choice, Eli explained how he was shocked last November with the abrupt departure of former head coach Brian Kelly but remained steadfast in his commitment. And as if Kelly's unexpected exit wasn't unnerving enough, Eli suffered a torn ACL playing basketball in De- cember and then found himself without a position coach when Irish tight ends coach John McNulty left Notre Dame to become the offensive coordinator at Boston College at the end of January. Staff turnover aside, Eli remains ready to move forward with whomever ends up his new position coach. (Notre Dame was expected to hire Gerad Parker away from West Virginia, but it hadn't been made official as of press time). "I just feel comfortable," Eli explained of his college commitment, admitting that if he wasn't going to stay in state and closer to home, Notre Dame was the only other option. "With the tight end success they have and the degree that comes with it, it was a no-brainer for me." When Eli arrives on campus this summer, he'll do so with a much higher national perception and profile than what he carried only about two years ago when he wasn't even considered a top-15 player at his position by most recruiting analysts. As a senior in 2021, Raridon caught 53 passes for 627 yards with 10 touch- downs and became a consensus four- star recruit. On3 ranked Raridon as the No. 3 tight end and No. 92 over- all player in its most recent recruiting rankings. But before Eli relocates to Notre Dame for summer school in June, his father will offer son one piece of advice that stretches well beyond stadiums and locker rooms. "Take the time to enjoy the experi- ence and get to know people, not just the football players," his proud papa said. "All of the students going there will be the future leaders of the country someday. "So seize every opportunity and get to know people, and make connections, work as hard as you can so when you look back, you don't feel like you left something on the table." As for the patriarch of this trio, well, grandpa wears his love and gratitude proudly on his sleeve when talking about his son and grandson. "The thing that I am most proud of is that these two guys are really good guys, really solid, good to people," Scott Sr. said. "That's really what I'm most proud of to be honest with you." ✦ ELI RARIDON TIGHT END 6-6 · 225 VALLEY H.S. DES MOINES, IOWA RANKINGS STARS NAT. POS. STATE consensus ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 129 5 2 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 92 3 1 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ — 12 4 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 196 5 3 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 57 2 2 STATISTICS • Had 53 receptions for 627 yards and 10 touch- downs as a senior in 2021. • Caught 22 passes for 237 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a junior. NOTABLE • Born on Feb. 12, 2004. • 2021 Des Moines Register All-Iowa High School Elite team. • 2021 Iowa Print Sports Writers Association class 5A all-state first-team offense. • Was averaging 23 points and six rebounds per game through seven games in basketball as a se- nior before tearing his ACL in December. • Father, Scott Raridon Jr., was a four-star of- fensive tackle in the 2002 class and played for the Fighting Irish until 2006. • Grandfather, Scott Raridon Sr., was Notre Dame's strength and conditioning coach under Lou Holtz when the Irish captured the 1988 national championship. RECRUITMENT • Committed to Notre Dame on May 2, 2021. • Will enroll at Notre Dame this summer. • Picked Notre Dame over Florida State, Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan State, Tennessee and others. • Recruited by former tight ends coach John McNulty. • Visited Notre Dame a handful of times, includ- ing official visits in June 2021 and December 2021. 2022 PROJECTION • With Raridon's recent ACL tear, he is a strong redshirt candidate as a freshman. THEY SAID IT Former tight ends coach John McNulty: "Eli is obviously a long, huge person. I don't know if you guys have ever seen this guy in person. The first time you see him you'll be like, 'Whoa.' He's a very developed, big guy who has really never lifted be- fore because he goes right into basketball. "His hand size is gigantic. The first time I met him I was like, 'How big are your hands?' Like, over 11 [inches], which is unheard of. He's explosive — ev- erything. He's aggressive, confident." National recruiting analyst Tom Lemming: "Rari- don has the length, long arms, strong hands, and deceptive speed that you look for in a tight end. Already an established in-line blocker, he does a good job of staying with his blocks until the whistle. "Raridon does well at securing the ball after the catch and can surprise people with his ability to gain yardage after contact." BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM MARCH 2022 65 "I didn't want [Eli] to go to Notre Dame just because I went there. I wanted him to figure it out for himself, where he wanted to go." SCOTT RARIDON JR.

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