Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman and the Fighting Irish staff have continued to shift the program's recruiting paradigm. The latest recruiting success story for Notre Dame in the 2023 class came earlier in the month when they landed Hagerstown (Md.) St. James School defensive lineman Devan Houstan.
Despite not getting a visit from Houstan during the late winter and spring, the staff was able to sell its vision to the 6-5, 275-pound defensive lineman. Houstan spoke with Irish Breakdown about what led to that commitment. Although there may not have been much outside noise, the staff worked hard to close the deal behind the scenes.
It all began with that Junior Day on January 29th, where Houstan received a surprise phone call the Friday leading up to the visit.
“I didn’t see that Coach (Al) Washington had been hired by Notre Dame prior to my visit,” Houstan explained. “He called me the Friday before and I was like, 'Oh this is going to be interesting'.”
Interesting is a good way to phrase it. That visit not only laid the groundwork for a great developing relationship, but ultimately helped seal the deal for the Maryland standout.
“After the visit, my mom and I kind of just talked and were like 'Holy (expletive), it’s going to be tough to beat that',” Houstan relayed. “The fact that it was (Washington’s) first week, it was obvious it was only going to get better from there.
“Honestly, a lot more could have gone wrong than right during that visit,” he continued. “They really did a great job selling the program.”
The uniqueness of that Junior Day is what stood out to Houstan. When you visualize the usual setup, you think a flock of talented recruits and a regimented schedule to follow closely.
That’s not what Houstan received.
“The staff really made us feel like we were at home. Coach Washington was there with us during the whole visit,” Houstan said. “I really liked that it was a smaller group that weekend. It was a lot different than your typical junior day.”
That was it from there. Other visits and time would follow but Houstan always knew where he would ultimately end up. You can track it back to that January visit.
Since the talented defensive lineman has joined the class, it has all been about getting to know the other recruits who make up the Notre Dame 2023 class. He is especially excited about what the team is building up front on the defensive line.
“We are just getting started building relationships; overall it’s just exciting,” noted Houstan. “We bring so many different aspects to the field. We all do things differently and we are versatile. Being in a room with guys who wanted it just as bad as me was a big thing.”
As for Houstan’s overall fit into the defense, that versatility really stands out. He brings an intriguing combination of length, athleticism and growth potential to work from multiple alignments. There are a ton of possibilities.
“The staff sees me as a three technique early on,” he explained. “They said that I can also play some big end in some three down fronts. Long term, I definitely see myself inside.”
Houstan was continuously appreciative of the support system around him during the process. His family was his rock during what can be overly daunting navigating the recruiting landscape. He understands what his family provided him in terms of support.
“My family has been great during the process," said the four-star defensive lineman. "There was a point where I shut down recruiting and they were so supportive of me. They wanted me to feel comfortable because they have already been through it with my brother.”
His brother, Caleb, is currently a freshman basketball player at the University of Michigan that scored 10.1 points per game this past season. The Wolverines were rumored to be a big threat for Devan during much of the process.
Despite his allegiance to a Wolverine program that Notre Dame faithful typically detest, his brother offered words or encouragement for Devan during the process. Caleb knows that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for his younger brother.
“My brother told me to just do it for myself,” Houstan said. “He told me this is a time I am allowed to be selfish.”
Now that Houstan is in the class and developing those relationships with other future Notre Dame stars, the task now turns to helping to solidify a No. 1 class for the 2023 cycle. His main target as a recruiter is another talented Maryland target.
“I’m mainly just talking to Jason Moore right now,” he said. “If we get him, nobody in the country is stopping us.”
Houstan was just another example of a massive win on the recruiting trail for Washington and the rest of the staff. The talented defender currently sits as the No. 180 overall player in the 2023 class according to 247Sports.
Washington came in with a lot of expectations from a recruiting perspective. He has not disappointed thus far.
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