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 could remain, but they figured Divi- sion II was the right expectation at first. "It's realistic, and too many people get hung up on the idea that my kid has to be D1," Bryan said. "If he were to get a tuition scholarship to Hillsdale or Northwood, we'd be over the moon thrilled." Central Michigan, though, forced them to recalibrate. The Chippewas ex- tended Ziegler his first Football Bowl Subdivision offer in January 2020. The floor rose from Division II to the Mid- American Conference, and in turn, evoked curiosity about the ceiling. Power Five offers trickled in during the spring and early summer of 2020. Nolan caught the attention of Notre Dame, Michigan and other blue-blood programs following an impressive showing at the Elite Underclassman Camp outside Columbus, Ohio. Col- lege coaches couldn't attend, but word reached them. The recruiting dead pe- riod sideswiped all chances to see Nolan in person, so the Irish asked for video of him performing some drills. Catholic Central coach Todd Kolster shot that video and sent it to the Notre Dame staff. This was real now. A far- fetched dream had life. Still, there were important steps left. Would Notre Dame feel the same way about him? What would they think of his film? How many linebackers would they take? These are understandably nerve-inducing questions for any re- cruit, let alone one with an entire family of Irish fans awaiting answers. But the mere possibility let excitement prevail. Notre Dame finally offered on Aug. 5, 2020. That would be all, right? Commit on the spot, get off the phone and make a dream reality. Not quite. Nolan won- dered if he should wait for visits to re- open (then at an unknown date) and see his other top choices just in case — until his mom asked the pivotal question. "Nolan, I can always repaint the base- ment,'" Darcy said. "Don't worry about that. Can you see yourself playing for another team? He said, 'No, not if we play against Notre Dame. I'd always root for Notre Dame.'" That was reality. Nolan admitted it and knew it wasn't changing. He com- mitted less than three weeks after earn- ing the offer. "I feel like I always would have re- gretted it," Nolan said, "and wished I'd come here." 'NOLAN CAN FLY' Ziegler will begin his Notre Dame ca- reer at rover, a fitting spot for a high school safety, wide receiver and lacrosse player with the frame to fit at linebacker and the speed to function in space. The latter ought not to be overlooked, per Sullivan. He doesn't say that just as Nolan's grandfather, but also as a for- mer high school coach and scout for Lou Holtz. "They're going to find out Nolan can fly. The kid can run," Sullivan said. "Sometimes you saw him get a chance to open up his gear in lacrosse." Nolan has carefully studied 2019- 20 rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and current starter Jack Kiser, hoping to learn scheme responsibilities as well as observe the skill set that made each a fit there. Notre Dame needs to find a backup for Kiser too. If Nolan can filch that job as a freshman, that'd be swell. But moreover, his spring practice goal is to show he can help somewhere, whether that's defense, special teams or a redshirt year on the scout team. Whatever the role, there surely will be freshman bumps. He can, though, keep them in perspective. Every day he's at Notre Dame, he's living a dream that wasn't just his, but his family's. And it was his choice. "It's pretty sweet," Sullivan said. "I can't deny that. It's something I never expected. You just want him to do well and enjoy every moment of it." ✦ NOLAN ZIEGLER LINEBACKER 6-3 · 205 CATHOLIC CENTRAL H.S. CALEDONIA, MICH. RANKINGS STARS NAT. POS. STATE consensus ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 270 26 6 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ — 31 8 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ — 33 10 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ — 24 9 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 232 17 6 STATISTICS • Posted 99 tackles, 15 stops for loss, one fumble recovery, two passes defended, two quarterback hurries and one interception, which he returned 29 yards for a touchdown as a senior. Also caught 67 passes for 1,350 yards and 25 scores (school record- holder for receiving touchdowns in a season), plus 11 carries for 72 yards and one touchdown. • Over his career, caught 71 passes for 1,481 yards and 28 touchdowns (third-most in school history). • Had 216 tackles (fifth-most in school history), 29 tackles for loss and five interceptions during his career. • Led Catholic Central to three straight state championships. NOTABLE • Born on March 17, 2004. • 2022 All-American Bowl participant. • 2021 Michigan Associated Press Division 5-6 Player of the Year. • 2021 High School Butkus Award finalist. • 2021 Division 5-6 All-State first-team. • 2021 MaxPreps All-Great Lakes Region High School Football first-team defense. • 2021 Maxwell Club National High School De- fensive Player of the Year semifinalist. • 2021 Anvil Award finalist (top lineman/line- backer in state of Michigan). • 2020 and 2021 Detroit Free Press Dream Team. • Grandfather Tim Sullivan (a linebacker) and great uncle Fred Trosko Jr. (a quarterback) were on the 1973 Notre Dame national championship team. • Uncle Jeff Ziegler was a quarterback for Illinois in the late '90s. RECRUITMENT • Committed to Notre Dame on Aug. 22, 2020. • Enrolled at Notre Dame in January 2022. • Picked the Irish over Boston College, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska and others. • Recruited by analyst Nick Lezynski, former de- fensive coordinator Clark Lea and former offensive line coach Jeff Quinn. • Visited Notre Dame a handful of times, includ- ing official visits in October 2021 and December 2021. 2022 PROJECTION • Ziegler is likely to redshirt as a true freshman. THEY SAID IT Catholic Central head coach Todd Kolster: "He is just a great athlete. People ask what's the differ- ence between a player going to Notre Dame and someone who is going to a smaller school. "The difference is those guys are at a certain level, and he certainly is." National recruiting analyst Tom Lemming: "Ziegler could play safety or linebacker at the next level. He's big, fast, very athletic and super produc- tive. He shows great range, terrific instincts and a hard-hitting style of play. He takes few missteps and shows the ability to stay with swift receivers. "Ziegler can handle tight ends and go one-on- one with receivers. What I like most about Nolan is his willingness to give up his body for a hard hit. He certainly has the length and the speed to dominate at a few positions." BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM MARCH 2022 75

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