Even before he took over as head coach of the University of Notre Dame, Marcus Freeman has been putting his imprint all over the linebacker position. Obviously the 2022 recruiting class was a huge indication of that, signing four top 250 caliber recruits at the position, including a consensus top 50 player in Hilton Head (S.C.) High School star Jaylen Sneed.
2023 is off to another strong start, already boasting a commitment from in-state Merrillville (Ind.) Andrean standout Drayk Bowen. From the looks of it, that’s not the last we will see from the linebacker position during the cycle.
Perkasie (Pa.) Pennridge linebacker Phil Picciotti is a priority for the Irish this cycle. Picciotti sees the potential fit as natural as the Irish do.
“I think ND fits in with what I’m looking for in a school, which is a combination of great academics and a premier football program,” Picciotti explained. “My relationship with the coaches is still growing and I look forward to continuing to build on it.”
The 6-3, 225-pound linebacker’s recruiting ranking is a bit all over the place currently. On3 and Rivals both have him rated as a four-star recruit, sitting as the No. 236 and No. 209 overall player respectively. 247Sports conversely only has Picciotti as a three-star, while he isn’t even rated by ESPN.
It would appear, however, that the offer list clearly sides with On3 and Rivals for the quality of player Picciotti is. With 17 reported offers, schools such as Notre Dame, Penn State, Oklahoma, South Carolina and USC are hot on the trail for the talented linebacker.
Very understandable after Picciotti collected an astounding 144 total tackles and 19 tackles for loss during the 2021 season, averaging 12 tackles per contest. An outstanding athlete, Picciotti also chipped in with 250 rushing yards and four scores as a part time fixture at running back.
The potential fit for Picciotti is multilayered. As a football player, there isn’t much debate.
“I think that my style of play can fit in with their current scheme. I like to play fast and physical,” Picciotti stated.
Freeman’s roots certainly don’t hurt either. He’s a leader that Picciotti can identify with.
“I’m excited for (Coach Freeman) to have this opportunity,” said Picciotti. “I think he’ll be a good leader for the team. He’s a person that you can look up to and learn a lot from.”
“Freeman, being defensive-minded and a linebacker guy is definitely a positive,” he added. “Having played that position in college himself is pretty cool.”
Freeman being a main element in Picciotti’s recruiting, as well as in his development as a football player and young man if he chooses the Irish, is sure to go a long way. Notre Dame, as a whole, are making Picciotti a clear priority early on in the process. There isn’t just one voice familiarizing themselves. It is a collaborative effort.
“(Chad) Bowden, Freeman, and (John) McNulty check in on me regularly," noted Picciotti. "McNulty has come to see me at school twice over the Fall and I expect to see him again this week.”
Picciotti was on campus last November for the Navy game. He was hoping to return at the end of the month for the Junior Day on the 29th but unfortunately, Picciotti will be unable to attend. Instead, it appears that Spring is the next time he will see South Bend again.
Constant communication will be key for this one until Picciotti can return. It is believed early that Penn State could have the inside track as it stands - but that can change very quickly.
“I don’t have a timeline for making a decision at the moment. It’s a big decision, I want to make sure I don’t rush into it. I want to find out where the best fit is for me,” said Picciotti.
That type of mindset does help the Irish. Taking everything in, examining multiple angles and a wide scope of the decision, certainly appears positive in Notre Dame's direction.
There is, however, plenty of competition to best in this one.
“The schools that I have interest in are (in no particular order) Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, USC, South Carolina, Nebraska, and some others.”
An uphill battle, it’s hard to believe that Marcus Freeman, with his linebacker background and recruiting dynamics, will not be in this one up until the final decision.
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