When Brian Kelly abruptly left Notre Dame only two weeks before the early signing period, the offensive recruits of the class of 2022 were thrown into more uncertainty than the defensive recruits. Thus, former Irish defensive coordinator and new head coach Marcus Freeman made it a priority to connect with those offensive prospects.
He went on the recruiting trail with offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and then largely emphasized Rees to any offensive recruits.
“It’s showing them what our offense did from the start of the year to the end of the year,” Freeman said on Wednesday at the conclusion of Notre Dame’s early signing period activity. “That’s going to be the same enhancement we do as we move forward. That’s not scheme in terms of run, pass, this exotic scheme.
“It’s more, ‘Hey, we’re going to put on the field a really, really good product. You can see it because of what Tommy showed this year from week one to week 12.”
Rees appreciated those efforts.
“Notre Dame football was turned upside down for about three days,” Rees said. “Until you had answers for [the recruits] on the direction we were going to, that’s where a lot of the indecision came. … We knew the guys that were a little bit on the fence and we went and saw all those guys a couple times, just to make sure we hammered home the points we felt were important.”
The focus of those efforts may have been consensus four-star receiver Tobias Merriweather, whom Freeman and Rees visited within hours of Freeman being publicly announced as the new Irish head coach, not to mention the last recruit visited by Kelly literally as reports broke his move to LSU, but they went far beyond the only receiver signed in the class.
To that end, Rees offered some insights on his offensive signees last week. …
ON QUARTERBACK Steve Angeli
“When we recruited Steve, I think the first thing that stood out was the intangibles. When you sit down and have a conversation with the kid, you say, this is exactly what you want in somebody that’s going to represent this program from the very top. As you dive through the various outlets of film that are being exposed to you, you start to see a guy that can make all the throws and has enough athleticism to get outside the pocket.”
ON RECEIVER TOBIAS MERRIWEATHER
“Size and speed. Here’s a kid that is looking to run a sub-10.6 (-second 110-meter dash). You walk up on him and he’s close to 6-foot-5. High character.
“You watch his film, he’s not just a one-trick pony, which sometimes long guys are. … He’s a guy that given his length, his maturity, given his ability to run, he’s a guy that you can put outside and expect to slowly make an impact early in his career.”
ON TIGHT END Eli Raridon
“[The pandemic] probably did us a favor on that one because people couldn’t see him live. To be honest with you, the difference-maker for him was when we turned on his basketball film a year ago. It’s like, ‘Wow, this guy’s athleticism — pun intended — jumps out of the room.
“He’s someone, you get around him, you see him in-person for the first time, you see the length, you see his athletic ability. To me, the sky is the limit for his potential.”
ON THE TIGHT END COMBO, INCLUDING RARIDON WITH Holden Staes
“You pair [Raridon] with Holden in a class together, you’re looking at a very elite group. That’s something that’s been a strength of ours, and with those two coming in, it’s going to continue to be a strength.”
ON SIGNING FIVE OFFENSIVE LINEMEN, INCLUDING A QUARTET OF CONSENSUS FOUR-STARS
“That’s a strength. That’s something, going into this cycle, that we said we have to keep our strengths our strengths. The tight end class, the offensive line class that we put together, I’d put up against anyone in the country.
“As a collective staff and group, we did a great job of closing that class out. … You look at the young group we currently have on our roster, and you look at the group that’s coming in, then you’re going to say that’s going to continue to be the best group in the country.”
EARLY SIGNING PERIOD COVERAGE
Consensus three-star quarterback Steve Angeli
Consensus four-star running back Jadarian Price
Tight ends Eli Raridon and Holden Staes
Consensus four-star receiver Tobias Merriweather, the only receiver in the class
Five offensive linemen complete Irish class of 2022, including quartet of four-stars