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Notre Dame Recruiting Mailbag - Defense Edition - May 23

Irish Breakdown recruiting director Ryan Roberts answers subscriber questions about Notre Dame football recruiting

It is Monday, so you know what that means, it is time for another Recruiting Mailbag. There were so many great questions this week that we had to divide this edition into two parts.

The defensive class is off to a tremendous start for the 2023 cycle. With limited spots left on that side of the football, Notre Dame continues to solidify a potentially elite class. June expects to bring even more talent to an already excellent class. 

The questions come from Irish Breakdown subscribers on the message board.

@irishnation: Do you know what position Samuel M’Pemba wants to play at the next level? What positions are other schools recruiting him for?

The projection is all over the board. Depending on the school, they may see M’Pemba anywhere from a defensive end, Mike, Will or Sam linebacker on the next level. Notre Dame even likes him as a rover to begin his career, with the thought process that he can move inside or even to Vyper as he continues to get bigger. 

In various interviews in the past, M’Pemba has mentioned defensive end as his preferred position. That is also where I forecast him to end up long term. His combination of length, explosiveness and growth potential should offer huge upside on the edge.

@charlieweislastbeltloop: Does Notre Dame close on Jason Moore, Jaiden Ausberry, Caleb Downs and Samuel M’Pemba?

I think the best way to answer this question is with a confidence level check to illustrate a realistic outcome to landing each recruit. 

I’d say I am roughly in the eight range to close on Jason Moore. They have been a big player for the DeMatha star for some time now. Getting him on campus in June offers a huge chance to close the deal.

Jaiden Ausberry has been an intriguing recruitment. If you would have asked me a couple of months ago, I would have said there was no chance Notre Dame could land him. There is, however, something that injects some confidence recently. I’d say we are probably staring at a seven right now but it seems to get stronger with each passing week. Getting him back on campus in June is a massive step to potentially get the talented linebacker from Baton Rouge. 

Five-star safety Caleb Downs is a huge wildcard in this class. The Georgia star has taken several trips up to South Bend so there is clearly real interest there. I’ll be steadily optimistic and say a six but it would still be a massive upset. 

I’d go roughly the same range as Ausberry for Samuel M’Pemba. I’d say that they are the leader for M’Pemba but various southern powers seem to be closing the gap for M’Pemba. I’d say landing all four is highly unlikely but landing two or three isn’t very outlandish.

@christopher-crosby: The way things are going I fully expect this staff to close on Jason Moore. On the off chance they don’t though, do they just stick with what they have for 2023 and take a fifth D lineman in 2024?

I would personally stick with the four on the board if that was the case. The fact of the matter is a class of Keon Keeley, Brenan Vernon, Boubacar Traore and Devan Houstan is bordering on an elite class for the 2023 cycle. There’s no need to force a fifth unless the right guy is on the board. I’d much rather give Al Washington and staff the full 2024 cycle to figure out the numbers. It’s Jason Moore or bust for that last spot for me.

@4irishgroupchat: Hey guys! Wanted to start off by saying thanks for all the great info you provide! Been following IB for the last year and just pulled the trigger on the actual subscription.

I know I shouldn’t but I’m starting to get my hopes up on landing Caleb Downs. If he were to end up being Irish, how would that affect Adon Shuler and Peyton Bowen both coming to Notre Dame? You’ve mentioned in the past Bowen could play cornerback but would he actually be open to the idea? Could they come up with packages where he could be used at each position?

I’m a cautiously optimistic so I don’t blame you for getting a little ahead of yourself! Downs is a fantastic football player and would be a welcomed addition to any program in the country. 

As for how it would affect Shuler or Bowen, I don’t think it will. Shuler is about as solid as you can find in a recruit and Bowen is trending to that level as well. Notre Dame has continued to preach about their ability to utilize all three of them together. With the Irish utilization of the rover position, there is a universe where one of the three could eventually also transition there eventually. 

Even if that doesn’t happen, the Irish still have the potential to employ some three safety alignments in the future to utilize all three skill sets. In fact, landing this kind of trio could make it even more likely that Notre Dame would employ more three safety alignments in a 4-2-5 defensive structure.

Bowen in particular does also bring some versatility to play multiple spots. It’s not inconceivable to believe that he could play either in the slot or full time as an outside cornerback down the line. Either way, it’s a good “problem” to have.

@bplence1189: Both New Jersey boys for you Ryan, but can you compare the two 2024 safety prospects in Vaboue Toure & Kaj Sanders? Who do you like more as a prospect & who has the greater upside?

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2024 Irvington (N.J.) High School safety Vaboue Toure is the teammate of 2023 Notre Dame commit Adon Shuler and the younger brother of current Rutgers linebacker Mohammad Toure. The younger Toure is a loose athlete who brings a quick twitch style on the back end. 

He works both from the roof and in the slot, showing nice change of direction skills to play in man coverage, while also having a nice level of range working from depth. There is high upside from a coverage versatility perspective and has a developing physical profile.

Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic star Kaj Sanders actually plays a lot as an outside cornerback for his high school. There is a nice physical profile to build off of. In a lot of ways, Sanders actually reminds me of Adon Shuler stylistically. Everything about him is solid all-around athletically but he also has a propensity to be in the right spot at the correct time.

When comparing the two, I’d say that Toure has a slightly higher ceiling based on film. Both brings developing physicality to the position and are asked to do a variety of things from coverage perspective for their schools.

@4irishgroupchat: Hey guys, I know I am looking ahead but who are two (top 50) guys on each side of the ball in the 2024 class that you think ND will push hard for and have a real shot to land? Thank you and appreciate you guys taking time to answer questions!

It’s never too early to start talking about 2024 recruits! 

On the defensive side, the Irish seem to be in a solid spot early on with Tucson (Ariz.) Salpointe Catholic defensive end Elijah Rushing. The 6-5 225-pound pass rusher is a gifted mover that profiles well to the vyper position in Al Golden’s defense. A year after landing five-star Keon Keeley, Rushing would be another home run landing.

Arguably one of the biggest can’t miss recruits for Notre Dame next cycle is Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco safety Peyton Woodyard, who is the cousin of former Irish All-American Kyle Hamilton. The 6-2 190-pound defender is a versatile piece on the backend who is already a standout for one of the top programs in all of college football. Woodyard could end up being the next in line of great Notre Dame safeties.

@donjeezle: Is there any sense that Oklahoma has backed off trying to flip Peyton Bowen or have schools cooled on Keon Keely as they continue to be solid commits or will this be a fight to the end?

No, I don’t anticipate Oklahoma stopping anytime soon. Bowen has had interest in the Sooners during the process so they have no reason to continue to make a push for the talented safety. That courtship won’t stop until Bowen stops picking up the phone, assuming he hasn’t done so already.

I wouldn’t say schools have cooled on Keeley. I would say that Keeley has cooled on the process. After taking some visits prior to the Blue-Gold visit, it appears that Keeley is finished taking in other schools. He looks completely Irish at this point. 

Be sure to check out the Irish Breakdown message board, the Champions Lounge

Irish Breakdown Content

Notre Dame 2022 Roster
Notre Dame 2022 Schedule

Notre Dame 2023 Class Big Board
Notre Dame 2023 Commits Board - Offense
Notre Dame 2023 Commits Board - Defense

Notre Dame 2023 Scholarship Offers
Notre Dame 2024 Scholarship Offers

Ranking The 2022 Signees - Offense
Ranking The 2022 Signees - Defense


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