July was forecasted to be a slow recruiting month, but someone forgot to tell Marcus Freeman and the Notre Dame staff. The Fighting Irish program is in the middle of a historic stretch, including five key targets announcing their attentions in a six day span.
With so much optimism and intrigue, this week’s mailbag is filled with queries about the 2023 and 2024 recruiting classes. From running backs, cornerbacks, offensive lineman and everything in between, there was a flurry of outstanding questions submitted.
Get ready for Part One of this week’s recruiting mailbag! In case you haven’t been following along with the mailbag series, questions were submitted on our premium message board by our members!
@christopher-crosby: We have not had the best of luck getting kids out of Wisconsin. They do a great job locking up their yard. I know it’s hard to read 2024 kids but Corey Smith is a beast. What’s their chances of pulling that kid out of there?
They have made a tremendous early impression on Waukesha (Wis.) Catholic Memorial running back Corey Smith early on. I don’t think that the Badgers should be assumed to have the inside track on this one.
Notre Dame has also done an admirable job making Smith feel like a priority early on in the process, and have even gotten him on campus quickly. They also get credit for targeting the Wisconsin native prior to his offer list exploding. That speaks volumes to their ability as evaluators. It’s going to be a fight but I’d give Notre Dame as good a chance as anyone right now.
@jsuareo: How would you compare Charles Jagusah as a junior to Blake Fisher. Both have massive size and are great athletes. I know Jagusah is very raw but I was wondering how the two compare in terms of raw tool and upside?
I think from an upside perspective, both Fisher and Jagusah are extremely similar. They each have raw power that is very hard to teach. I would even argue that Jagusah may even be a bit more flexible of an athlete. He’s a little more quick twitch and probably has a little more upside working in space.
The biggest difference is that Fisher is just a bit further along from a technical perspective. He seemed to have a slightly more natural feel for the game at a similar age but each have just incredible upside. If anyone argues that Jagusah has a higher upside, I wouldn’t argue against it. With proper development, he can be special.
@jsuareo: What would your realistic 2024 cornerback board look like for Notre Dame? I love what Mike Mickens has done since he arrived and he really seems to be upgrading the talent of that position.
This is so difficult with how talented the cornerback board is early and we have heard a lot of early buzz about how some really talented cornerbacks are perceiving Notre Dame. With that in mind, I’m going to highlight a few players who we have heard very positive things about early on. If the Irish land any combination of this cornerback class then they have a chance to rival the best class in their programs history positionally.
Nashville (Tenn.) Lipscomb Academy standout Kaleb Beasley is fresh off of an outstanding showing at the Irish Invasion a few weekends ago. The 6-0, 175-pound cornerback is an impressive technician for his age. He also boasts outstanding ball skills to make plays through contact. In a lot of ways he reminds me of current Atlanta Falcons star AJ Terrell. Beasley has an extremely high opinion of Notre Dame early on. I’d even venture to call them his leader.
Notre Dame has also managed to get Philadelphia (Pa.) St. Joseph’s Prep star Omillio Agard on campus early on in the process. At 5-11 and 170 pounds, Agard is not the biggest defensive back of all time but he plays with an advanced understanding of spacial recognition, on top of impressive short area quickness. He has the ability to play a variety of coverages and impact the game in all areas.
One of the biggest fish from a ranking perspective is Pinson (Ala.) Clay-Chalkville cornerback Jaylen Mbakwe. Full transparency, getting a player of this caliber out of Alabama would be quite the feat. Still, Mbakwe has been complimentary of Notre Dame early on. Getting the 5-11, 180-pound defender on campus is going to be a huge emphasis for the Irish.
Perhaps the most interesting player on the board, Lilburn (Ga.) Parkview defensive back Mike Matthews brings an absurd level of length to the position. At 6-2 and 170 pounds, Matthews could potentially project favorably as either a press man cornerback or safety. He presents a lot of alignment versatility for a defense that values it highly.
There’s this weird assumption that Denton (Texas) Guyer rising junior Eli Bowen is a take solely on his older brother being committed to Notre Dame in the 2023 class. That just isn’t true. On a Guyer program that boasts four Power Five caliber defensive backs, Bowen was the one who paced the squad with ten interceptions as only a sophomore. He doesn’t bring a lot of size to the position at around 5-9 and 170 pounds but Bowen is a very good football player with incredible instincts on the backend.
@garin-knutson: I love some offensive line talk. How is the 2024 offensive line class looking? Do you see us taking five again in 2024, or will we look to lock down 2-3 dudes?
It is a really small board for Notre Dame currently, having only extended offers to four 2024 offensive lineman thus far. There could be a lot of reasons for that but Harry Hiestand does typically work off of smaller boards traditionally. There are, however, a few very talented players that Notre Dame is keeping close contact with.
Early on, I’d expect the 2024 offensive line to be a smaller group compared to 2023. I’d guess that three players ends up being the number. That could change as the roster evolves, but that’s my guess right now.
West Roxbury (Mass.) Catholic Memorial offensive tackle Guerby Lambert is the most toolsy offensive lineman on the board for Notre Dame. The 6-7, 280-pound offensive tackle is extremely long with surprising foot quickness for a player his size. There is some rawness to his game but the Massachusetts native has special traits at offensive tackle. Lambert is also the teammate of 2023 defensive end commit Boubacar Traore.
The Irish staff has also put themselves in very good position early on with Malvern (Penn.) Prep offensive lineman Peter Jones. At 6-6 and 295 pounds, Jones boasts an offensive tackle build and solid blend of foot quickness, physicality and length. There isn’t much flashy about Jones but he just seems to get the job done.
Speaking of upside, Dillon (S.C.) High School standout Josiah Thompson is a massive offensive tackle who hasn’t even come close to reached his ceiling. The 6-7, 285-pound offensive lineman is long, strong and explosive. He creates some very easy movement in the run game. His footwork is less than ideal right now, leaving his movements a little awkward and choppy. As he continues to grow into his frame, his ceiling is incredibly intriguing with some good coaching down the line.
Olney (Md.) Good Counsel star Kyle Altuner is a physically imposing and controlled offensive lineman who currently holds down the left tackle position for Good Counsel. His lack of size and length will more than likely kick him inside on the next level but there is a really nice baseline from a power and movement skills perspective. Altuner has an advanced feel that is somewhat reminiscent of former Notre Dame right tackle Robert Hainsey.
@reid16: Haven’t heard much about Caleb Downs recently. Just wondering where you think Notre Dame stands in the pecking order of his top schools?
It’s mostly because there isn’t anything new to report really. We know that Downs likes Notre Dame. He wouldn’t take this many trips to South Bend if he didn’t. It just feels like too big of a pull out of Georgia right now. Notre Dame is in the fight but I currently have a feeling that he ends up in the SEC (Alabama, Georgia) or at Ohio State.
@jameslawrence37: Is Notre Dame recruiting either Illinois 2024 tight end in Christian Bentancur or Grant Stec? Thoughts on these prospects. Which one do you like more at the moment?
I know that they do keep in contact with Bentancur. He was also at the Irish Invasion a few weekends ago. I haven’t heard much about Grant Stec and potential interest.
For now, neither player has an offer, and early on our sources have indicated that right now Notre Dame is focused on just one tight end in the class. With Jack Larsen already committed the Irish might take a bit of a pause when it comes to new offers, but things could change as the roster shakes out in the fall.
Both players have appealing traits. Both have very projectable frames.
Stec is used a lot more in-line and has experience as a blocker, where he shows some nice flashes. His straight line speed is also pretty nice. He is used as a seam buster and also works outside the numbers on fade routes.
Bentancur brings a more physical style as a pass catcher. He is a catch point dynamo and also has some impressive chunk plays created after the catch. I’d probably slightly go with him over Stec but it is a very interesting comparison.
@bluechip: Hi Ryan, in a recent column on the site, Bryan stated that the Jagusah commitment “caps off” Notre Dame’s offensive line recruiting for this cycle. Is this a signal that Notre Dame has moved on from Monroe Freeling?
As it currently stands, it appears extremely unlikely that Freeling will be part of the Notre Dame 2023 class. There has been something happening behind the scenes that has put stress on the relationship.
We will speak on the situation when the dust settles. It is very unfortunate because Freeling has arguably the highest ceiling of any offensive tackle in the 2023 class. He’s a special player.
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