Notre Dame has already started making a hard push on the 2022 class, and one of their most important early targets is Evanston (Ill.) High School star linebacker Sebastian Cheeks. The nation’s No. 96 overall player according to Rivals, there is little doubt that Cheeks is a must-get player for the Fighting Irish in the 2022 class.
Cheeks is a national recruit that has offers from Texas, Michigan, Louisville, Arizona State and many others, but Notre Dame is already standing out. With so much attention on him, things could get overwhelming for the 6-2, 205-pound linebacker, but he’s been able to remain grounded.
"I've heard from tons of schools; my mailbox is full every other day,” Cheeks explained to Irish Breakdown. “I have calls and texts every day. It's a blessing, and I don't take it for granted. It's an opportunity that many don't get. Right now, I have open conversations with more than 30 schools. Coaches reach out to me, my parents, and my siblings almost daily.”
One school that has been in constant communication with Cheeks is Notre Dame. The Evanston star has already built strong bonds with Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea and defensive analyst Nick Lezynski, and the relationship involves a number of deep football talks where they go over X’s and O’s and schemes.
"I communicate with Coach Lea and Coach Lezynski nearly every day, whether it's a quick text or a phone call,” recalled Cheeks. “… I also hear from guys like Blake Fisher and Pat Coogan pretty regularly.”
Notre Dame’s staff has made it clear to Cheeks where he fits into the Irish defense. Lea has shown a fondness for versatile defenders, and the Evanston star certainly fits that mold.
“As far as the scheme, the system's made for a guy with my skill set,” Cheeks stated. “They believe I can play the Vyper position or inside. The player we watch the most is [rover] Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. He's everywhere on the field and has tremendous versatility.”
Cheeks is a tremendously athletic player, which is a big reason why he’s a priority for the Notre Dame defensive staff. He’s a rangy and impactful player, and when his team gets back on the field during the spring he’ll be showing off his talents on both sides of the ball.
"On offense, I'm starting at tailback this year,” Cheeks explained. “Guys who have seen me play would say I'm better at tailback than a linebacker, so I'm hoping to show that this year. I've been working on my speed and I’m running a sub-4.6 40-yard dash now. Defensively, I've been working all offseason on playing in space and covering wide receivers. I'm going to be flying to the ball on almost every down this season.”
The four-star linebacker is more than just an athletic defender, he’s also smart, and academics are a big part of his resume as a prospective student-athlete.
"I would say mental toughness. I'm a critical thinker on the field and in the classroom,” said the Evanston standout. “I give 100% effort, and not being cocky, but I don't believe I'll be outworked. Growing up with older brothers, I've become incredibly competitive, whether its sports, in the classroom, or even a game of checkers. I think without the competition my brothers instilled in me; I wouldn't be here.”
“Physically, I think I'm a versatile athlete and can play in coverage against a receiver or downhill to make a tackle for loss in the backfield.”
Cheeks is still just a junior, but he’s advanced beyond his years, and he knows what he is looking for in a college.
"For me, relationships matter,” Cheeks said. “I can tell which school is actually trying to develop a relationship with me and who's just sending me a graphic. I'm looking for a close-knit team that has a brotherhood and a winning culture. I felt that when I visited Notre Dame. The guys in the locker room kept it real with me. They're like brothers, you can tell.”
Making an impact on the field is not all Cheeks wants to do at the next level.
"It means a lot that schools aren't just doing things in the locker room and on the field but also in the community,” explained Cheeks. “That's how I want to live my life. I want to contribute to the community through my faith. So how a college is giving back to its community stands out to me.”
When you hear the phrase “Notre Dame fit” thrown around, this is the kind of thing that is most often in view.
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