Assuredly, Notre Dame’s recruiting surge is because of more than defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman. The two-month-old hire is not the sole reason the Irish have now pulled in three consensus four-star defenders since his arrival, as well as a consensus four-star quarterback and an under-recruited receiver. The rest of the Notre Dame coaching staff plays a part (and more of one than a coordinated Twitter presence), as do the broader assets of the University as a whole, not to mention the Irish have gone 43-8 across the last four years.
But Freeman’s arrival in January certainly has marked a shift in the class of 2022, with inside linebacker Joshua Burnham (Traverse City Central High School; Mich.) the latest to add to the recruiting momentum. On Wednesday, Burnham chose Freeman and Notre Dame over Michigan, with Wisconsin giving notable chase, as well. Alabama and Ohio State both also offered, but the pursuit was down to the Wolverines and the Irish for a while now.
Of course, when you are committing on your birthday which happens to be St. Patrick’s Day, one of those two options fits more than the other.
“Our connections have been getting stronger,” Burnham recently told Blue & Gold Illustrated. “Coach Freeman is awesome. I can’t wait to actually be able to meet him in person and get a better feel for him, but what I have seen over the phone and on FaceTime, he has amazing energy.”
The No. 5 inside linebacker in the class and No. 141 overall player, per rivals.com, Burnham also plays some quarterback and running back for his high school team, and then picks up the basketball in the winter. Suffice it to say, his 6-foot-3 frame includes plenty of athleticism.
While quick enough to beat a running back to the edge, that advantage comes as much as a result of Burnham’s play diagnosis as it does his outright speed. In coverage against a slot receiver, for example, he may be at a disadvantage. Thus, it is most likely Burnham remains on the inside at the next level, be it at Mike (middle) or Will (aka Buck aka weakside).
Keeping Burnham inside, and thus closer to the snap, should also best utilize his patience as he reads a play. With his fundamental tackling form, that ability to recognize the appropriate running lane keeps the action in front of him, seemingly at all times. Burnham can be so clean in his tackles, it is ironically his quarterbacking — which often includes designed rushes near the goal line — that betrays how physical and aggressive his play can be.
The second linebacker in the class, Burnham joins consensus four-star Nolan Ziegler (Catholic Central H.S.; Grand Rapids, Mich.) as notable prospects crossing a particular state border. Including those two, Notre Dame has four 4-star defenders in this class to date, among 11 pledges, led by defensive end Tyson Ford.