Notre Dame started its 2023 class off by landing Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep defensive end Keon Keeley, a talented edge player with an elite upside. Landing Keeley so early gives Notre Dame an opportunity to narrow its defensive line focus even more, upping the chances the Irish can land an elite haul in both 2022 and 2023.
KEELEY HELPS 2022 RECRUITING
Yes, landing Keeley this early in the 2023 class helps Notre Dame when it comes to recruiting the 2022 class. The way recruiting works now schools must recruit two classes at once, especially if you're going to fight for and land the nation's best players.
Getting Keeley in the class this early means Notre Dame can not only narrow its focus in the 2023 class, it means the staff can turn up even more heat on 2022 ends Anthony Lucas and Cyrus Moss. Getting Keeley in a class after landing Darren Agu and Aiden Gobaira could give the staff the confidence to stop recruiting Moss and focus all of its attention on Lucas.
That's the kind of talent Keeley has.
VERNON BECOMES PRIORITY NO. 1
His commitment has an even greater impact on the 2023 class. Yes, Notre Dame can still recruit high-ceiling Vypers (see below), but the success in the 2021 and 2022 classes at that position means Notre Dame can focus on landing a "big end" of equal talent to Keeley.
That player would be Mentor (Ohio) High School star end Brenan Vernon, a five-star end that ranks as the nation's No. 9 overall player in the country according to Rivals. At 6-5 and 250 pounds Vernon already has outstanding size, and his power makes him a perfect complement to Keeley.
Vernon has been Notre Dame's top big end target from the beginning of the 2023 recruiting cycle. Beating Ohio State for a talented in-state player from a public school that it wants is something that almost never happens, but Notre Dame did not back down from the Buckeyes and went after Vernon despite the feeling he was a strong Ohio State lean.
Notre Dame got Vernon on campus this weekend, the second time he made a trip to the South Bend campus this summer. Notre Dame will try to do what is often impossible, beat Ohio State for a top Ohio prospect.
Notre Dame also hosted elite West Coast end Jayden Wayne this summer, and he's another prospect the Irish staff are very, very high on but Vernon is clearly the No. 1 target.
STILL KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR HIGH UPSIDE VYPERS
Landing Keeley doesn't necessarily mean Notre Dame should or will stop recruiting players like him in 2023. Keeley's frame should allow him to eventually grow to the size and power that will give him the ability to play both end positions, although Vyper is clearly his best spot.
Notre Dame could continue to look for impact depth, and completely dropping the rest of the 2023 Vypers could make it hard to overcome any depth issues that sometimes happen due to injuries or transfers from the current roster.
If Notre Dame is going to continue recruiting Vypers expect to see players like Chandavian Bradley and Samuel M'Pemba on the list.
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