In the second edition of this week's mailbag, we discuss defensive back recruiting, offensive lineman recruits, some rovers and early returns on 2024 talent. So much 2024 talk is due with it seeming that the 2023 recruiting cycle is already winding down.
The month of June was very busy on the recruiting trail and things don't look to slow down any time soon. Several standout recruits plan on announcing their attentions during the month, while the staff will push to continue their quest towards the top class in 2023!
The questions come from Irish Breakdown subscribers on the message board.
@mairish: Is Notre Dame strictly recruiting Brauntae “Tae Tae” Johnson as a Safety? If so, it appears Notre Dame is in good shape with Tae Tae and Peyton Woodyard. Do you think Johnson and Woodyard at Safety and Kaleb Beasley, Omillio Agard, and Eli Bowen at cornerback would be the ideal 2024 secondary class? Also, is ND still evaluating 2024 in-state offensive line prospect Ian Moore?
Yes, Notre Dame is targeting Johnson on the defensive side of the football. I believe Notre Dame would be ecstatic about that class if they were able to hit on all five. That is four top 100 caliber recruits and Eli Bowen, who would also be in the same category if he was an inch or two taller. That is an absolutely elite class and it would be hard to believe that another program could boast a more impressive one.
We haven’t heard much about Ian Moore at this point. His film is very promising but there is no telling what the staff thinks about him right now. We will see when the board expands eventually.
@bplence1189: Do you like Notre Dame defensive back target Zaquan Patterson more as a cornerback or safety? I have seen him play both and am curious if Notre Dame is recruiting him as a safety, cornerback or defensive athlete?
For my money, Patterson is one of the more impressive defensive players I have seen so far in the 2024 recruiting class. The truth is that he can assume pretty much any role on the back end for a defense. I would much rather have him at safety though. Patterson plays with a silly amount of physicality and really makes his presence felt. He also has some reps working in the slot in man coverage.
While he can make more than enough plays working from depth, I would love to utilize him a ton working near the line of scrimmage and bringing him down almost as their rover at times. The versatility aspect is what I would personally like to highlight most and that is much easier to do at safety. Patterson was also offered as a safety so it looks like the staff sees it similarly, for now anyway.
@bplence1189: I thought Mike Mathews was a safety prospect? Is he being recruited by Notre Dame as a cornerback or safety? Where do you prefer him position-wise?
Matthews is on the board as a cornerback recruit currently for Notre Dame. It is a slightly odd projection because the 6-2, 170-pound defender spends the majority of his time at safety on defense. The length and overall athletic profile must be something that the staff projects favorably working at cornerback on the next level. Complete transparency, I would be in favor of the program recruiting him as a true athlete.
He could just as easily play wide receiver on the next level. Matthews is simply an extremely gifted football player. In comparing him between safety and cornerback, I would prefer Matthews slightly at safety. I believe that you could better utilize the physicality he brings to the field as well. He is the kind of kid, however, that I would keep options open and let the rest play out when he gets on campus.
@annarborisawhor3: In reading Bryan’s ratings article earlier, I was surprised that Notre Dame only had three offensive line offers on the list. Are you surprised they don’t have more offers out to top offensive line talent?
No, it isn’t overly surprising to me. Traditionally, Coach Hiestand likes to keep smaller boards for his offensive line recruiting. Add in the fact that 2024 doesn’t look like a great offensive line group early on and it makes complete sense that there are only four offers extended at this point. Add in the fact that 2024 also appears to be a slightly smaller group in general at the position after taking five or six in 2023 and it makes complete sense. That will most likely change but Hiestand has clearly identified his ideal targets.
@bplence1189: I see a lot of offers to MIKE and potential WILL linebacker prospects in the 2024 class – who are some of the Rover possibilities that ND is targeting in 2024?
There are several talented linebackers who could also play out in space that are on the board. There’s no reason to think players like Sammy Brown and Myles Graham can handle those duties, although Notre Dame prefers them inside currently.
A couple of players that the Irish do like as true rovers are Quinton Martin, Garrett Stover and Zavier Hamilton.
Martin has much more of a safety build at 6-2 and 180 pounds but also plays with surprising physicality for his size profile. It is, however, his ability to work in space that makes him special. Coverage possibilities are really interesting with him out there.
Stover is a relatively new player on the Notre Dame board, getting it extended during the Irish Invasion weekend. The 6-2, 200-pound defender is the cousin of current Ohio State tight end Cade Stover. Garrett is extremely reminiscent of former Buckeye star Pete Werner. His combination of physicality and smoothness is impressive on film. He was one of the most impressive players at Notre Dame's Irish Invasion camp in early June.
Hamilton is a player that Notre Dame likes and he’s an impressive athlete overall. He has played a lot of positions during his high school career so there is some rawness without having a true home as of yet. When he is able to establish a home, Hamilton has pretty nice upside.
@jameslawrence37: Do you and Bryan have a favorite offensive and defensive recruit in the 2024 class yet? Or as of right now.
I’ll let Bryan give his pick on the podcast one day soon. For me, there’s a whole lot of recruits I like on both sides of the football. It was tough to settle on one on each side of the ball but here are a couple of my early favorites:
On offense, Corey Smith is a dynamic running back out of the state of Wisconsin with big time long speed. I’m a sucker for running backs who can take it the distance every time they touch the football. That’s Corey Smith summed up perfectly.
On defense, it was so difficult to pick one. I’m a big fan of guys like Peyton Woodyard, Nigel Smith and Sammy Brown. I settled on Garrett Stover, who reminds me of Pete Werner when he was coming out of high school. He is being viewed as a rover by Notre Dame but I believe he may end up as a WILL backer long term. His combination of physicality and ability to work in space is big time.
@robosgood Hey guys, in the 2024 class what position is the strongest and the weakest depth wise and impact wise. I know from the podcast the 2024 class of offensive line isn’t as strong because ND could take six in the 2023 class. Thanks guys.
I just want us to be fully aware that things could change very quickly. We are talking about rising juniors who still have two years of football left before they ever even make it to the next level.
Early on, the wide receiver and quarterback groups look incredibly strong early on. The same can be said about the linebacker, safety and defensive tackle classes. Each group has a pretty nice combination of top level talent and intriguing depth to work with.
Offensive line is the main group that doesn’t look particularly strong. There is some nice talent at the top but the depth just doesn’t seem to be there right now. Luckily, Notre Dame is in on several of the most talented offensive lineman in the class already.
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