Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2022*

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

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Page 41 of 55

42 SEPT. 10, 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY MIKE SINGER When Woodberry Forest (Va.) High class of 2023 defensive lineman Armel Mukam announced his commitment to Notre Dame Aug. 24, it's not one that the Fighting Irish fan base saw coming. Many prospects that pledge to a pow- erhouse school like Notre Dame hold a commitment ceremony that's streamed online, and it's usually well known which school is the heavy favorite. However, Mukam's decision was unexpected. The 6-3½, 250-pounder committed to Stanford in June after taking official visits to California and Virginia along with a trip to Palo Alto, Calif., to see the Cardinal. It wasn't known publicly that the Irish were even recruiting him. He never announced that he received an offer from Notre Dame. Typically, prospects release a list of favorites on social media. The staff, though, was quietly work- ing on Mukam to pull off the flip. "Notre Dame is great academically and has top-tier football with the op- portunity to compete for a national championship every single year," Mu- kam told Blue & Gold Illustrated. "That was really appealing to me. I need to be challenged on and off the field, and I felt like Notre Dame is the place to do so." The power of Notre Dame is on dis- play with his commitment flip, with the Irish swooping in to land the powerful defensive end on short notice. "Notre Dame has always been a dream school for me," he explained. "When I was living in Canada, I always wanted to play hockey for Notre Dame. When I switched to playing football, I knew that Notre Dame was a good football school, too. It has always had a special place in my heart." Director of recruiting Chad Bowden, defensive line coach Al Washington and head coach Marcus Freeman led the charge for Notre Dame in Mukam's recruitment. "I really like Coach Washington," Mu- kam said of his future position coach. "He's been straight up with me and tells me the truth. He tells me that I'm a good player but still have things to work on, and that's what you want in a coach." Both of Mukam's parents are from Africa and moved to Quebec, Canada, where he was born. Hockey was his sport of choice growing up. He didn't start playing football until his soph- omore year of high school, when he played in just a few contests as a tight end. It was at that point that he fell in love with the sport. Mukam and his parents started look- ing toward schooling options in the United States so that he could better himself academically and athletically. They decided on Woodberry Forest High, which is about 90 miles south- west of Washington, D.C. He went on to have a strong junior season, posting 41 total stops, 8 tack- les for loss and 6 sacks, according to The Daily Progress. The Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association named Mu- kam to its first-team all-state defense. He was also selected as a team captain ahead of the start of his senior season. "I think I'll play five-technique in the Notre Dame defense," Mukam said. "I could play vyper. It'll all depend on how much weight I put on when I enroll." Mukam, who has only played one sea- son of American football, picked up his first scholarship offer from William & Mary last December. Colorado became his first Power Five scholarship offer Feb. 8, and Mukam saw his recruitment take off in March, when he landed a total of 14 offers. ✦ COMMITMENT PROFILE ARMEL MUKAM Irish Flip Canadian Defender From Stanford Pledge Mukam, a three-star recruit and the No. 76 defensive lineman nationally per On3, committed to the Fighting Irish seemingly out of the blue. PHOTO COURTESY TYLER CAMPBELL/WOODBERRY FOREST "Notre Dame is great academically and has top-tier football with the opportunity to compete for a national championship every single year. That was really appealing to me. I need to be challenged on and off the field, and I felt like Notre Dame is the place to do so." MUKAM FILM ANALYSIS "You have to start off with the combina- tion of play and functional strength. He's a big, strong defensive end who ultimately will probably project as a run-stuffing end or could grow into becoming a full-time defen- sive tackle. " The play strength is significant. He was productive in a small sample size as a junior; we don't have the same exposure to him as other defensive linemen. That increases the importance of looking at him as a senior at Woodberry Forest. "He projects well as an edge setter against the run at the next level. He also shows some good pass-rush ability, too, and moves around well. He's a solid athlete. The strength and ex- plosion is validated with his 50-foot-plus shot put, which is a positive indicator for any line of scrimmage player we're looking at." — On3 director of scouting and rankings Charles Power

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