Notre Dame capped off an impressive six day span on Monday, securing a commitment from St. Louis (Mo.) DeSmet Jesuit 2023 cornerback Christian Gray. The St. Louis standout chose the Irish over finalists LSU, Ohio State and USC.
Combining Gray with fellow cornerback commit Micah Bell gives Notre Dame an extremely gifted tandem at the position in the 2023 recruiting class. In order to get the full scope of impact that Notre Dame fans and faithful should expect, DeSmet Jesuit head coach John Merritt provided the Irish Breakdown staff with further insight into what makes Gray so special.
It all starts with what Gray brings to the field.
“As a cornerback, he’s going to be as good as it gets,” Merritt said. “He’s got great length and long speed. What makes him different is that he has excellent timing. Christian knows how to use his physicality at the line of scrimmage and with the football in the air. He also shows up and is very consistent as a tackler in the run game.”
Gray’s work ethic sets him apart from the crowd. Previously Coach Merritt tutored current Notre Dame defensive lineman Tyson Ford at John Burroughs School. This makes the second straight cycle preparing a future Notre Dame football player. He was overly complimentary for the caliber of player, and competitor, Gray is.
“You’re going to get a complete package at cornerback,” Merritt continued. “He’s smart, and more importantly he’s coachable. He’s going to work at a high level. The best part of Christian is that he’s already a good football player but he’s still getting better. There is space on his frame to continue to add size and he’s going to get faster. There really is an impressive ceiling to him as a player.”
Gray has not only starred on the defensive side of football for DeSmet Jesuit, but he has also asserted his talent on offense as well. His overall skill set has allowed him to make plays on both sides of the football and as a returner on special teams.
“His abilities on defense have allowed him to also make an impact on offense for the team,” he said. “Christian has great skills but he’s also so confident and in control. You never see him lunge and miss. He has an uncanny ability to make plays on the backend but also understands that he’s the last line of defense.”
As for Gray’s potential fit, there is zero worry about how he can fit as either a student or person into the Notre Dame program. It is the full package that will make the transition seamless.
“DeSmet Jesuit is a top academic school so he has been prepared very well,” Merritt explained. “Of course, Notre Dame is a world class institution but they wouldn’t recruit him if they didn’t think that he could flourish there.
“Christian will be good making the transition,” he continued. “He’ll be grounded through it all. When kids grow up, they pick a place where they can see themselves every day. Plus I’m sure his family will get up to just about every game to see him play.”
The recruiting process can be very daunting for any standout recruit. It appears that Gray handled it about as well as can be imagined. It is again, one of the many reasons that make it a tremendous fit.
“He handled it really well,” said Merritt. “I was just impressed with seeing how he navigated everything. Christian had a small list of schools that he wanted to focus on but after he cut it down, a bunch of schools came after him late. He really just put it all in God's hands. Christian is a man of deep faith.”
Praising the job Marcus Freeman has done as head coach of Notre Dame is becoming close to a broken record lately. Still, the compliments seem to come from all angles and every avenue. That continued with Coach Merritt.
“Coach Freeman is doing a tremendous job,” Merritt said. “The Notre Dame staff is doing a top notch recruiting job. It’s hard to imagine anyone can match them right now. Their ability to generate genuine relationships in a short amount of time is unmatched. I really don’t know who does a better job right now.”
It’s hard to argue against the job that Coach Freeman and his staff have done from a recruiting perspective right now. That momentum continued with Gray, who is the 19th overall recruit for what is currency ranked as the top overall class in the 2023 cycle by both 247Sports and Rivals.
A consensus four star recruit on every major recruiting platform, Gray comes in as the No. 78 overall player and No. 7 cornerback in the 2023 recruiting class according to the On3 consensus ranking. Rivals has the highest opinion of Gray’s game, currently pegging him as the No. 51 overall player in the class.
The 6-1, 175-pound defensive back opted for the Irish over an impressive offer list. Some of his notable offers included Alabama, Ohio State, Miami, LSU, Oklahoma, USC, Florida, Oregon, Tennessee, Iowa, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Arizona State, Minnesota, Iowa State, Kansas State, Boston College, Illinois, and Indiana among several others.
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