Notre Dame will attempt to add elite speed to its roster by signing one of Miami’s top 2023 playmakers. Landing Nathaniel Joseph could also help Notre Dame’s long-term Florida recruiting fortunes.
The Irish often hit Florida, as it’s something that Notre Dame did for decades. Recent years did not see quite as much interest in recruiting Florida, but that’s changed dramatically with the class of 2022 and 2023.
Here’s a look at one of Notre Dame’s top overall targets for the class 2023, and how he could change the Notre Dame program in multiple ways.
Nathaniel Joseph, Wide Receiver
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
High School: Edison
Offers: Notre Dame, LSU, Florida, Texas, Texas A&M, Oregon, Florida State, Miami (Fla.), Penn State, Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona State, Georgia Tech, Duke, Syracuse, UCF
247Sports: 4-star - No. 174 overall - No. 24 wide receiver
Recruitment: It’s very early in Joseph’s recruitment, but Notre Dame, LSU, Clemson and Florida State are a few of the schools that built a good relationship with him to date. He stays in consistent communication with Notre Dame Wide Receiver Coach Del Alexander, and the Irish have made him a priority recruit. Perhaps Joseph is a sign of things to come, as Notre Dame is being far more active recruiting across Florida, and the Miami area in particular, for the class of 2022 and especially the class of 2023.
Why it is important that Notre Dame recruits Edison High School, as well as other programs in and near Miami and Fort Lauderdale: Miami-Fort Lauderdale produces more NFL talent than any other city in America. Most importantly, this area produces skill position talent that Notre Dame usually lacks compared to some obvious programs like Alabama, Florida, etc. That’s an area Notre Dame needs to address within its 2022 and 2023 recruiting classes. It’s the last obstacle, from a recruiting and roster standpoint, for Notre Dame to truly reach an elite roster status.
Plucking even one elite player, such as Nathaniel “RayRay” Joseph, can change the Notre Dame program. Now imagine Notre Dame adding two elite perimeter burners, such as Joseph, to its roster over a two or three year period. That’s why Notre Dame must recruit Miami and Southeast Florida every year. There are great fits like Joseph, who’s an excellent student as well as excellent player. With that, a little background about the Edison program and why it’s a microcosm of how Notre Dame can change its current roster.
The Edison Program and its Prominent Football Players: Playing in the Miami Public League and going against top out-of-conference foes, Edison lines up against prominent programs such as Miami (Central), Miami (Norland), Miami (Booker T. Washington), Homestead High School, Naples High School, and Miami (Monsignor Pace). Edison, along with the aforementioned programs it goes against, is a high school that finds itself with college coaches coming through its doors from programs such as Miami, Florida, Florida State, Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State among others.
Two recent NFL players of note that graduated from Edison include William Joseph, a defensive tackle that played for the University of Miami when they won the 2001 national championship. He was selected 25th overall in the 2003 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. Joseph played in the NFL for the Giants (2003-2006) and the Oakland Raiders (2007-2009).
Also a product of Edison would be running back Devonta Freeman. Freeman starred for Florida State when the Seminoles won the 2013 national championship. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft with the 103rd overall selection. Freeman was a two-time NFL Pro Bowl selection (2015 and 2016), and has produced 4,144 rushing yards and 44 rushing touchdowns during his NFL career. Freeman played for Atlanta (2014-2018) before moving on to the New York Giants (2019-2020); he is currently an NFL free agent.
While Edison is but one example, there are numerous programs in South Florida that Notre Dame needs to kick the tires on each year; the Miami Public League is a starting point. It is not an ending point. There’s also a plethora of private schools that Notre Dame could increase its presence, as well as public schools in the Fort Lauderdale area. It’s something to monitor now that Notre Dame is really recruiting Florida hard once again, with roughly 20 offers out to 2023 Florida prospects already.
Position Fit for Notre Dame: Slot wide receiver (Z) or outside receiver (X).
Speed: After seeing Joseph play several times, there’s one thing that stands out even to the casual eye: straight-line speed. This young man hits the gas and goes! Even when a talented opponent possesses the angle to reach Joseph, that does not man he will even lay a finger upon him.
Joseph alters his pace quite often; he will lull an opponent to sleep out of his original stance before blowing by him. What’s unique about this would be Joseph’s ability to turn and react to the football while running at or near his top gear. That’s very important for a wide receiver. Joseph does this quite well, and will aid him throughout his football career.
Sudden Change: While the casual eye will like Joseph’s speed, closer examination extends into his ability to change direction. While many true “deep threats” blow by defensive backs and help an offense, an elite speed wide receiver also does well when making cuts without losing too much of his speed to shake a defensive back, which is Joseph’s biggest asset.
Whether it’s a basic speed out, short drag route, comeback route, or double move, Joseph sinks his hips and changes direction while keeping his speed very well. This enables him to create separation from defenders and make big plays.
After the Catch: This is a wide receiver most defenders will struggle with during one-on-one matchups. Once Joseph receives the football, he’s like a running back in space. He jukes and darts by defenders quite easily. Remember, if he gains just a little space, his speed takes over. Joseph can be a true playmaker during a bomb or any number of different wide receiver screens, as well as a reverse. Bottom line, place the ball in Joseph’s hands and allow him to go to work.
Competitiveness: While watching Joseph play this past Saturday, he was playing both offense and defense for South Florida Express 7 on 7. While common for elite prospects to play both offense and defense, many do not take their second assignment that seriously. Joseph is quite the opposite.
Despite being his usual big-play self as a wide receiver, he also manned up and played slot cornerback. While Joseph is not going to wow anyone with true cornerback technique quite yet, he’s ultra competitive and showed the ability to make several plays on the football. Joseph’s effort and grit provide good signs for his long-term progress just as much as him making numerous catches and scoring touchdowns as a wide receiver.
Special Teams: College football changed its rules and special teams are not what they used to be. While that’s true, a player like Joseph can cause a punter to kick away from him, oftentimes resulting in shanked punts going out of bounds; teams that win field position battles usually win football games as well. When Joseph does receive a punt, that could be interesting as well.
Few high school or college players will be able to match Joseph’s natural speed and athleticism. It’s hard to imagine Joseph not scoring a few touchdowns as a punt returner in college. When combined with his competitive nature, he will be a threat to score anytime a team punts to him or kicks off to him.This area adds extra value to Joseph’s overall ability.
Final Thoughts: Joseph will be one of the class of 2023’s most highly sought after wide receiver targets. It’s deserving because he’s a great player and excellent student, allowing him to fit into just about any college program. On the gridiron is what he’s known for, however, as he can change a game in a moment’s notice.
Very few players possess his speed, suddenness, and overall athleticism, nor his competitive nature. In sum, he’s a priority recruit for Coach Alexander and the Notre Dame coaching staff for good reason.
Recruiting is a marathon and not a sprint. Notre Dame currently sits in good position with Joseph, and will be in a highly contested recruitment until he signs his national letter of intent.
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