Notre Dame Offense Still Has A Chance For A Strong Recruiting Class
Notre Dame has been on fire on the recruiting trail this summer, with the Irish defense leading the way. Six of Notre Dame's last seven commitments have been on the defensive side of the ball, and the only offensive recruit to pledge to the Irish was a consensus three-star recruit.
Notre Dame current has 19 total commits but just eight are on offense. The buzz surrounding the program is about the tremendous job Marcus Freeman and the Irish defense have done. The offense has been lagging behind, but despite the lack of momentum there is an opportunity for Notre Dame to bounce back and finish with a strong offensive class.
STRONG FINISH AT WIDE RECEIVER IS A MUST
Notre Dame currently sits at just one wide receiver commit in the 2022 class, Louisiana project Amorion Walker. The 6-3, 180-pound wideout has received offers from Alabama, LSU and Michigan this summer, which is why ESPN jumped him up to the No. 241 player in the country. Walker has tools but he must show them on the field in the fall.
After losing four wideouts from the roster this summer the Irish need at least two more pass catchers in the class, and they absolutely must be top-level talents, and there are two recruits Notre Dame must land.
Vancouver (Wash.) Union wide receiver Tobias Merriweather is a dynamic player that SI All-American ranked as the No. 4 outside receiver in the entire country. He's the kind of big play weapon that Notre Dame wants and needs more of.
Notre Dame has been near or at the top of his favorite schools list for months, but Merriweather continues to talk about waiting until the winter to make a decision. If Notre Dame's staff can convince him to make a decision this summer the odds are good he'll pick the Irish, but the longer his recruitment goes on the more opportunities there are for other programs to get in the mix and possibly sway him in another direction.
Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei pass catcher CJ Williams is another top target on the board for the Irish. Williams ranked as the No. 9 wide receiver according to SI All-American, and his polish, ball skills and versatility are traits Notre Dame wants and needs at wide receiver.
Set to choose this summer between Notre Dame, Texas, USC and Alabama, Williams is a player the Irish coaches must land.
Merriweather and Williams will be a test case for the effectiveness of wide receivers coach Del Alexander and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees as recruiters. Top recruiting staffs with two playoff appearances in three seasons land these types of players, and that's what Alexander and Rees must do.
If Rees and Alexander do in fact haul in these two pass catchers it would go a long way towards silencing some of the doubters about their recruiting ability ... including me.
OFFENSIVE LINE CLASS COULD GO EITHER WAY
Notre Dame currently has a quality offensive line class, having landed Joey Tanona, Ty Chan and Ashton Craig. While it's a good group the reality is Notre Dame needs a great group in 2022 after failing to land a third offensive lineman in the 2020 class and not having the kind of high-quality depth they needed in the 2021 class.
There are three remaining offensive line recruits on the board for Notre Dame, but there are two that are most important to securing the kind of elite line class that a school known as "O-Line U" needs to be getting on a relatively regular basis.
Lynchburg (Va.) Christian Academy standout Zach Rice is certainly the biggest name on the board. Rice is ranked as a consensus five-star recruit by Rivals, 247Sports and ESPN and he's a consensus Top 20 national recruit. Although I don't rank him quite that high there is no doubt that Rice, at the very least, is a Top 100 caliber prospect that could play tackle or guard at the next level.
Alabama, Ohio State, North Carolina and Virginia are considered Notre Dame's top competitors for Rice. Prior to his June 25-27 visit to South Bend the Irish were near the bottom of that list, but the coaches knocked that visit out of the park and they are now a major player for him.
Now we will find out of line coach Jeff Quinn and Rees can close out on a top line target, because the Irish have been considered the leader or a major player for a number of highly ranked OL in the 2022 class and ended up losing out, or at least losing ground.
That was the case with Fond Du Lac (Wis.) St. Marys Springs star guard Billy Schrauth. Notre Dame was in great position for Schrauth for months, and he considered all but a lock to join the class. Quinn couldn't close and Wisconsin eventually caught up to and surpassed the Irish with Schrauth.
Rees and head coach Brian Kelly are working hard to get the Irish back on track with Schrauth, and at this point the longer he stays uncommitted the better, as it gives the Irish coaches more time to get him back into the class.
Finishing the class off with Rice and Schrauth would be a huge, huge finish for Notre Dame and would give them one of the best, if not the very best offensive line class in the country.
As I said with Alexander, Quinn can silence his critics - like me - with a finish that includes Rice and Schrauth. Ohio tackle Aamil Wagner has a high recruiting ranking but there's a reason Ohio State isn't pushing for him. Wagner has a questionable frame, and while he may turn out to be a top player landing him instead of Schrauth or Rice would not be as strong of a finish.
Hitting a home run at both wide receiver (Merriweather, Williams) and offensive line (Rice, Schrauth) would get the offensive class on par with the elite defensive class and give the Irish one of the premier recruiting classes in the country.
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