Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 12, 2022

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

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Page 42 of 55 NOV. 12, 2022 43 PREP PROFILES Sept. 1 was the first day that college coaches were allowed to directly contact high school recruits in the 2024 class. And right at midnight, Notre Dame safeties coach Chris O'Leary gave a call to Mike Matthews. The five-star athlete from Lilburn (Ga.) Parkview was asleep, but O'Leary reaching out showed just how much of a priority Matthews is to the Irish. "Everything has been going well," Matthews said of his communication with Notre Dame. "They were a Day 1 school for me. They were my first big offer, like I've said multiple times. I'm really building a bond with them." Matthews talks with O'Leary on the phone at least once per week. He'll also get on the phone often with Notre Dame director of recruiting Chad Bowden, who will put him on the phone with sev- eral other Irish coaches, including head coach Marcus Freeman. "He's like the middleman," Matthews said of Bowden. "He's a really cool dude. I like him a lot." The 6-0½, 180-pounder often talks about Alabama, Clemson and Georgia as contenders in his recruitment. He discusses Notre Dame in that group as well, but the Fighting Irish aren't ex- actly like those programs. "It's a school that's different," Mat- thews said of the Fighting Irish. "They're always a top school. I've liked them for a long time, and they're always playing in the final four. It's good to see that." Matthews visited Notre Dame last fall for the North Carolina game, a few months before he eventually picked up an offer from the Irish. "I didn't get to see a lot of stuff be- cause I wasn't really known back then, but I had a good experience," he said. "I got to see the player walk, and Kyle Hamilton was talking to us on the inside practice field. The fans were really into the game, and they had the light show." On3 lists Matthews as a receiver, but he's being recruited to play on both sides of the ball. When his re- cruitment started, he was getting a lot more looks at safety, but now it's more at wide receiver or athlete — meaning he could play on either side of the ball. Notre Dame has been recruiting him as a safety, but the Irish staff would cer- tainly allow him to play receiver if that's what he preferred. Matthews is in no rush to make any big decisions for his recruiting process. "I'm still breaking down my recruit- ment and enjoying the process," he said. "I'm more concerned about what we're doing with my team." — Mike Singer A major storyline for Notre Dame's 2023 class has been whether the Fight- ing Irish staff will be able to hold on to Denton (Texas) Guyer five-star safety Peyton Bowen's commitment. All the while, Notre Dame also is in pursuit of his younger brother, a corner- back prospect in the 2024 cycle. The Irish offered Guyer's Eli Bowen on St. Patrick's Day and have kept in steady contact with him. And the Bowen brothers have taken most — if not all — of their trips to South Bend together as well. "I text with Coach [Chad] Bowden usually, but it's a call with them at least once per week," the younger Bowen brother said. "And I'll talk on the phone with him or Coach [Mike] Mickens." Mickens, who is in his third season as Notre Dame's cornerbacks coach, re- lates well to recruits and excels in build- ing relationships. "He's a cool guy," Bowen said. "It's easy to get along with him. It's always good when I get to see him." In the offseason, Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman said that he would be the lead recruiter for the Irish's key recruiting targets. If that's the case, then Bowden, who serves as the director of recruiting, would be the secondary recruiter for the Irish. " H e 's a c l o w n ," Bowen said of Bowden with a smile from ear to ear. "He's always him- self all the time. I like that." And speaking of Freeman, Bowen thinks highly of him as well. "I like him," he said. "A defensive- minded head coach is always a good thing for a defensive player." While his brother committed to Notre Dame, that was his own decision. If Eli Bowen wants to pick the Irish as well, it'll be because it was his independent choice. "It's the first year under Marcus Free- man, so they have some time to adjust," he said. "I feel like once they get rolling and get the 2023 class in there, they'll be good. "I love their motto — graduate cham- pions. They're going to take care of you off the field as much as they do on it." — Mike Singer Notre Dame Is A Contender For Georgia's Top 2024 Recruit The Fighting Irish Are Trying To Land Texas Cornerback ELI BOWEN ✪ ✪ ✪ Guyer H.S. Denton, Texas Status: Offered Class: 2024 Position: Cornerback Ht.: 5-9 • Wt.: 165 On3 Rankings: No. 108 player in Texas and No. 65 cornerback nationally MIKE MATTHEWS ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ Parkview H.S. Lilburn, Ga. Status: Offered Class: 2024 Position: Athlete Ht.: 6-0½ • Wt.: 180 On3 Rankings: No. 1 player in Georgia, and No. 2 wide receiver and No. 8 overall player nationally "He's a cool guy. It's easy to get along with him. It's always good when I get to see him." Bowen on Irish cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens "They were a Day 1 school for me. They were my first big offer. I'm really building a bond with them." Matthews on Notre Dame

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