As we reported last week following the Pot of Gold push, the Notre Dame coaching staff is making a hard, hard push on the 2023 recruiting class. The way the staff is pushing, especially on defense, the 2023 class could be a special one for Notre Dame.
I picked up a few nuggets after talking to sources about 2023 prospects.
KAYIN LEE, CB, ELLENWOOD (GA.) CEDAR GROVE
Cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens is still working on putting together his 2022 cornerback class, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting a very early start on top 2023 corners. Mickens has put Notre Dame in great early position with two young cornerbacks, Alabama star AJ Harris and Kayin Lee.
Both were at the Under Armour camp in Atlanta this past weekend, and you can see their elite tools in those clips.
I spoke with a source tonight who spent time around Lee this weekend and also talked to Lee after the camp. When Lee was asked about top schools he mentioned Notre Dame right away, and when asked what school stands out he again brought up Notre Dame. Lee is impressed by the fact Notre Dame was in the College Football Playoff, but he’s also a quality student that is intrigued by the unique nature of Notre Dame’s non-football opportunities.
Of course, the coaching staff is making a big push with Lee as well. Mickens is one of multiple coaches from Notre Dame that have already connected with Lee. It’s very early in his recruitment, and the SEC will be all over the Georgia native, but the work by the Irish staff all but ensures they’ll be a strong contender for his services as long as they want to continue being in the mix.
Lee has expressed a willingness to leave the Southeast if the right opportunity comes along.
Lee is listed at 6-0 but he checked in closer to 5-10 at the Under Armour camp. He’s still young so he’ll likely grow and end up around 6-0, but he’s thin and needs to fill out. What impresses me on film is that despite being undersized he’s a physical player both in coverage and in the run game. Lee has exceptional foot quickness, he can run and his instincts in coverage are advanced for his age. He clearly has a high football IQ and knows the game.
KEON KEELEY, DE, TAMPA (FLA.) BERKELEY PREP
Notre Dame has tried to get into Berkeley Prep and land top players, but so far the Irish have been shut out. That could change with Keeley, who has strong early interest in Notre Dame. Last night I spoke with a source who knows Keeley, and the young defensive end raves about the Irish program. He’s a strong student (3.6 GPA) that puts a high value on education, which is obviously a key for Notre Dame, and he comes from a great high school.
Beyond that, Notre Dame’s staff has been working hard on Keeley. The Berkeley Prep standout has already had conversations with head coach Brian Kelly, defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman and of course defensive line coach Mike Elston.
I have been a harsh critic of Kelly’s recruiting efforts for much of the last decade, but over the last month we have been hearing his named mentioned a lot with prospects. In the past it was rare to hear Kelly involved with sophomores, but it’s becoming common with the 2023 class, and 2022 prospects are also telling us they are talking to Kelly. This is a great sign for Notre Dame, and if it continues over the next nine months the 2022 class could be outstanding, and the 2023 class could be even better.
Back to Keeley …
Tom Loy of 247Sports recently put a Crystal Ball in for Keeley to Notre Dame. While it’s too early for me to make that bold of a proclamation, it’s obvious that Notre Dame has put itself in a strong, strong early position. According to my source Keeley is likely going to take some time before making a decision, and visits are likely to happen first, but Notre Dame is off to a tremendous start with Keeley.
When looking at the early film, it’s easy to see why Notre Dame is high on him. He’s incredibly raw and extremely long, but you can see a strong burst off the line and he can flat out run for such a long-limbed young athlete. Keeley has quick feet, excellent closing speed and his hands are quite powerful for his age.
VIC BURLEY, DE, WARNER ROBINS (GA.) HIGH SCHOOL
Burley ranks as the No. 33 player in the country according to 247Sports, and he’s clearly one of the best young defensive linemen in the country. He already has great size and power, and he’s got a ton of upside.
Of the three prospects in this notebook Burley is going to be the hardest to land. He doesn’t know quite as much about Notre Dame and he will have every major SEC power coming hard after him. Burley isn’t from an area that is normally overly friendly to Notre Dame, but the Irish staff is still making a push. Yes, the odds will be long talking to sources, but you have to love that the Notre Dame staff - led by Elston - is willing to battle for what will be an elite 2023 defensive line prospect.
My source told me that Burley has a 3.5 GPA and is already talking about engineering as a possible major, so there's a clear academic focus with him. With Notre Dame getting involved with him so soon the staff has a better chance of helping him keep that as a priority, which is how Notre Dame could possibly pull off what would be a major recruiting upset.
You can see clips of Burley from the Under Armour camp here:
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