Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2023

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

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54 PRESEASON 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED FOOTBALL RECRUITING BY MIKE SINGER While the Notre Dame coaching staff is still putting its finishing touches on the 2024 class, it is also getting a nice head start in the 2025 cycle. The Fighting Irish landed their third commitment in the rising junior class when Tampa (Fla.) Jesuit running back Justin Thurman announced his pledge to Notre Dame on Aug. 1. "The reasons that led to my deci- sion to commit to Notre Dame were the culture, academics, program and the people," Thurman told Blue & Gold Il- lustrated. "It's a great holistic fit for me and my lifestyle. Four years at Notre Dame puts you in the best position for the next 40 years of your life. "From Coach [Marcus] Freeman all the way down, it's a family environment. There's such great camaraderie, and there's a collaborative environment." Thurman picked up an offer from Notre Dame May 25 during a conversa- tion with Irish running backs coach De- land McCullough, and he quickly made plans to get to South Bend for a visit. The four-star prospect had a two-day visit at Notre Dame in mid-June, which included participating in a recruiting camp where he im- pressed the Irish staff. The 6-0, 180-pound Thurman returned to South Bend July 29 for another two-day trip, and by the end of the visit, he informed the Notre Dame coaches of his decision to commit. "I told them that I had long conversa- tions with my family, prayed a lot about it and came to the conclusion that Notre Dame is the best fit for me and the right choice," Thurman said. McCullough, director of recruiting Chad Bowden and head coach Marcus Freeman were all important figures in leading Thurman to pick the Irish. An- other staffer who deserves a lot of credit in Thurman picking Notre Dame is direc- tor of high school scouting Dre Brown. "He's a great coach and guy," Thur- man said of Brown. "He's very infor- mative and talks to me a lot. We've had good conversations about how I'd fit in the program. We've had in-depth talks about Notre Dame overall." Thurman, who is ranked as the na- tion's No. 24 running back and No. 261 overall prospect per the 2025 On3 Indus- try Ranking, also held offers from Florida, Tennessee, Auburn, L o u i s v i l l e , I o w a , P u r d u e , I n d i a n a , North Carolina State, Vanderbilt and others. According to his On3 Visit Center, Thur- man has taken a total of 28 college recruiting trips. Thurman joins Washington (Okla.) High tight end Nate Roberts and Mi- ami Palmetto defensive lineman Davion Dixon on the 2025 Notre Dame commit- ment list. As a sophomore at Jesuit, Thurman wasn't the lead back; that title went to Joquez Smith, a three-star prospect who signed with Temple in the 2023 cycle. Accord- ing to MaxPreps, Thur- man totaled 169 rushing yards on just 19 carries and scored 2 touchdowns. He's expected to become the lead back this fall, and there are high expecta- tions for the new Irish commit. "I'm a person of hard work, dedication, integ- rity and perseverance," Thurman said. "I'm go- ing to be an ambassador for Notre Dame's 2025 class. I'm looking for- ward to helping the team ge t ba c k to a n a t i o n a l championship." In a track and field event at Florida State in March, Thurman ran a 10.84 in the 100-meter dash. He's reportedly been clocked in the 4.4 to 4.5 range in the 40-yard dash. His father, James, was a wide receiver at Florida A&M in the early 1990s. Thurman is originally from St. Louis and attended De Smet Jesuit — the same high school that produced Irish fresh- man cornerback Christian Gray — be- fore transferring to Tampa Jesuit ahead of his sophomore year. He's close with Gray and St. Louis Christian Brothers running back Jer- emiyah Love, who also signed with Notre Dame in the 2023 class. He's even met former Irish running back and St. Louis native Kyren Williams before. ✦ 2025 Running Back Joins Irish's 'Family Environment' "From Coach [Marcus] Freeman all the way down, it's a family environment. There's such great camaraderie, and there's a collaborative environment." THURMAN FILM ANALYSIS "Justin Thurman looks pretty good on film. He has decent size, runs well and has good vision. He'll have a breakout year this fall. It's a good pickup. Deland McCullough is one of their better recruiters, and he likes this kid a lot. McCullough has great skills as a recruiter. Thurman is a big-time back, but he hasn't been the starter yet. "Notre Dame doesn't recruit by stats. They recruit by who they believe are the best play- ers, and Thurman is very good." — Prep Football recruiting analyst Tom Lemming COMMITMENT PROFILE JUSTIN THURMAN Thurman — a four-star recruit, the No. 37 player in Florida, and the No. 24 running back and No. 261 overall prospect in the country per the 2025 On3 Industry Ranking — picked Notre Dame over offers from schools such as Auburn, Florida and Tennessee. Irish running backs coach Deland McCullough (right) first offered him a scholarship May 25. PHOTO COURTESY JUSTIN THURMAN

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