Recruiting is not a pursuit for the impatient or the short-sighted, a lesson imparted by a pair of Notre Dame receiver commitments this week. With consensus four-star CJ Williams (Mater Dei High School; Santa Ana, Calif.) joining the Irish class on Sunday, suddenly Notre Dame has commitments from two of the best wideouts in the class of 2022, after having only one three-star receiver in the fold less than a week ago.
Williams follows the Wednesday pledge of Tobias Merriweather (Union H.S.; Vancouver, Wash.) in changing the paradigm of Irish offensive recruiting in the figurative blink of an eye. While Merriweather as the No. 21 receiver in the class deserves ample notice, Williams will be the highest-rated receiver signed during Brian Kelly’s 12 cycles at Notre Dame.
That may seem presumptuous, considering December’s signing period is still more than four months off, but August is relatively late in the recruiting cycle, even this pandemic-delayed one. When June and July passed with only consensus three-star Amorion Walker (Ponchatoula; La.) committed as a receiver, things seemed dire for the Irish.
But that was short-sighted and impatient. Williams and Merriweather now make this one of the best receiving groups in the country.
Williams ranks as the No. 29 overall prospect in the country, per rivals.com, and the No. 3 receiver. The easiest way to sum up his game is that he is simply an all-around receiver. His 6-foot-2 frame already carries enough muscle to hold up to press coverage. He consistently wins hand-to-hand battles with defensive backs and displays strong body control in the air.
While Williams is not a speedster, per se, he is still somehow faster than most defensive backs.
All of which explains how he has an invite to the All-American Bowl and visited Texas, USC and Stanford in June, the same month he spent some time in South Bend. Williams also held offers from Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State, the types of schools that usually haul in the No. 3 receiver in the class.
Since Kelly arrived at Notre Dame in December of 2009, the highest-rated receiver he signed, by position rankings, was Jordan Johnson in the class of 2020, who has already transferred to Central Florida. Just behind Johnson, early-enrolled freshman Lorenzo Styles was ranked the No. 6 receiver in the class of 2021.
Merriweather fits with a few of those, but Williams elevates the grouping to a previously unprecedented level.
The Irish now have 21 commits in the class of 2022, of note given the impending scholarship crunch facing every program across the country as they deal with the long-term ramifications of the universal pandemic eligibility waiver.